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January 27, 2016

West Virginia Close to Becoming Right-to-Work State

Changes are coming to union-dominated coal country.

First, a little history lesson: In 2008, the United Mine Workers Union endorsed Barack Obama for president, despite knowing the man’s views on “dirty energy” like coal. We know what happened next. Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency jumped on the industry like only rabid environmentalists can. These day, scores of coal companies filed for bankruptcy, including the second-largest one, and half of West Virginia’s adults are without jobs. Heck, Obama might have even felt a mandate from the coal union to act to erode that industry and imperil the very jobs the union was supposedly there to protect. And the miners who are left emerge from the earth and hand over a percentage of their paycheck to that union.

This year, the Republican-controlled West Virginia legislature decided that making its state a right-to-work state was something it was going to accomplish in 2016. They have the power to do it too, as Republicans have veto-proof majorities. Democrats will argue (again) that a union-dominated state going right-to-work is an attempt from Republicans to break up unions. But it allows competition within the system. If passed, a coal miner doesn’t have to be a member of the union to hold a mining job. And if the United Mine Workers Union doesn’t represent his values, then he can cancel his membership and stop paying dues. As we wrote in 2014 about right-to-work, it’s a better economic policy than the Left’s minimum wage promises. Right-to-work allows for greater access to jobs, while a government mandated minimum wage prices some prospective workers out of those jobs. Which one makes more sense if creating jobs is the objective?

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