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Pennsylvania is ripe for right-to-work law

About Eric Heyl
Picture Eric Heyl 412-320-7857
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Eric Heyl is a columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. His work appears throughout the week.

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By Eric Heyl

Published: Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a Springfield, Va., organization that combats compulsory unionism abuses. Mix spoke to the Trib about the state of unions in America today.

Q: Do you think unions are losing strength as more states switch to right-to-work?

A: I don't think unions really are losing any power. I think they are losing a public relations battle that shows them continuing to rely on government power for the ability to recruit new members.

Going back to the 1930s, the idea of serving the workers they claim to want to represent on the shop floor has been secondary to the maintenance of their power and privilege through the political process.

You know, 2012 was a good year for unions politically — they got the man in the White House that they wanted there. This president has been extremely favorable to organized labor.

Q: Is right-to-work causing any changes in the way unions operate?

A: I think they are learning that they've got to be much more focused on workers if they are going to expand and grow and be what they claim they want to be, and that is be a representative of workers. What I've seen over the years is the increasing awareness of forced unionism, not only on individual workers but on the economy.

If you look at the states and you compare right-to-work states with non-right-to-work states, you are beginning to clearly see a difference in job growth and in economic development and recruitment. It's getting to a point where it's really hard for organized labor to make the case that somehow right-to-work laws are bad for individuals who live in the states that have them.

We are at 24 states now, and frankly — for the readers in Pittsburgh — if we can pass a right-to-work law in Michigan, we can pass one anywhere.

Q: So you're suggesting Pennsylvania might be among the next states that approve right-to-work legislation?

A: I think a couple of things are going to be determinant of that.

One, I believe that union officials in Michigan will attempt to repeal that law through the ballot in November of 2014. I think they will make a very concerted effort and spend anywhere from $50 million to $100 million to try to repeal it.

If, however, the United Auto Workers and the international unions here in Washington and across the country are not successful, then I think what you will see is dramatically increased pressure on Pennsylvania to deal with the issue.

Q: Why?

A: Because geographically, if you look at what happened in 2012 as it relates to right-to-work, the real breakthrough was getting the law passed in Indiana. That was the first state to do that in the Great Lakes region.

If you look at how Michigan became a right-to-work state, you'll find passage of the law in Indiana was probably the biggest factor in that happening.

I believe that in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker will think long and hard about passing a private right-to-work law there. They've already got right-to-work for government employees.

So step back and take a look at the map. We've got Wisconsin, we've got Indiana, we've got Michigan. I mean, I consider Pennsylvania to be in that cluster of states in terms of geography, labor force, resources.

So I think the pressure on Pennsylvania to consider right-to-work and have a meaningful debate over it will increase dramatically in 2015.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media (412-320-7857 or




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