AUGUSTA – In a strict party-line vote Wednesday, State Democrats defeated a Republican-backed proposal to end forced unionism in Maine’s private sector.
Rep. Lawrence E. Lockman (R-Amherst), the sponsor of L.D. 831, An Act to Prohibit Mandatory Membership in a Union or Payment of Agency Fees as a Condition of Unemployment, said Wednesday’s 92-53 vote rejecting his bill is just a temporary setback in a nationwide movement that will inevitably come to Maine.
“This bill was inspired both by principle and by economics,” said Lockman. “The principle is liberty, the bedrock of our uniquely American heritage of limited government and individual freedom.”
“The economic justification for ending compulsory unionism is being proven again and again across the country as states that embrace it experience growth through more jobs and more opportunity,” said Lockman, who sits on the Legislature’s Labor Committee.
Other House Republicans expressed dismay over the Democrats unwillingness to confront Maine’s labor unions – private corporations that spend heavily on Maine’s elections.
“Today we saw what one-million dollars in election spending will get you: a unified Democratic front against common sense legislation to help Maine’s economy,” said Assistant House Minority Leader Alexander Willette (R-Mapelton).
“The Governor has said repeatedly that the first question businesses ask when contemplating a move to Maine is about Right-to-Work,” said Willette.
“Right-to-Work is one of the few things we can do in the Legislature to instantly improve Maine’s economy,” he said.
Democrats and union leaders disagree.
Matt Schlobohm, executive director of Maine’s chapter of AFL-CIO, testified against Lockman’s bill in the Labor Committee, saying the purported economic benefits of Right-to-Work laws are based on “junk science.”
“I would encourage you to look at the Economic Policy Institute,” said Schlobohm. “They rebut people who not honest about these kinds of bills,” he said.
Schloblohm said states pass Right-to-Work laws for ideological, not economic, reasons. “Unions disproportionately support Democratic candidates,” he said. “That’s obvious.”
“I think it fails to pass the straight face test that employers are going to decide to come to the state of Maine based on whether a state has Right-to-Work or not,” he said.
Labor Committee Co-chair Rep. Erin Herbig (D-Belfast) also used the “straight-face test” to assess Lockman’s bill.
According to the Lewiston Sun Journal, Herbig said yesterday, “It simply does not pass the straight-face test that a business would base its decision about whether or not to come to Maine” based on passage of a Right-to-Work law.
John Butera, Gov. Paul R. LePage’s senior economic advisor, said Schlobohm and Herbig’s straight-face test is probably a less reliable indicator of how businesses operate than testimony from actual business owners.
“Companies do in fact look at whether a state is right to work,” said Butera.
“I’ve sat in boardrooms where CEOs and presidents have said point blank: they will not invest in states that are not right to work,” he said. “Capital goes where it is welcome and stays where it is appreciated.”
Butera cautioned that making Maine a right to work state is not a silver bullet for economic troubles.
“Becoming a right-to-work state is just one piece of the puzzle Maine must address if we wish to become competitive,” said Butera. “We need to make the tough choices that position us for success,” he said. “In short, we need to make Maine competitive.”
Asked whether Right-to-Work is now dead in Maine, Lockman said definitively, No.
“Compulsory unionism is dead in Maine,” said Lockman. “It’s like a hundred-year old maple tree that still produces foliage, but the trunk is rotten and dead. After the debate in Augusta over the past several months, the public has a much clearer understanding now of what’s at stake for Maine. I’m confident the voters will demand that a professional tree surgeon take down the dead tree when the 127th Legislature convenes.”
Maine Wire Reporter