Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mitch Daniels Right on Right to Work Law

Governor Daniels said of the walk out staged by Indiana state senators:

"The activities of today are a perfectly legitimate part of the process," Daniels told reporters. "Even the smallest minority, and that's what we've heard from in the last couple days, has every right to express the strength of its views and I salute those who did."

Daniels added that he would not send Indiana state troopers to find the fleeing Democrats. "I trust that the people's consciences will bring them back to work," Daniels said. "I choose to believe that they'll come back and do the job that they're paid to do."

Sounds reasonable. Allowing the minority to pull a publicity stunt is politics as usual. A minority party fleeing state lines to avoid doing the peoples business is unfortunate but to be expected after seeing their fellow Democrats do it in Wisconsin. Texas, by the way, experienced the same from state Democrats in 2003 so it is not so original of an action. Just cowardly.

Daniels is trying to remain calm and cordial, no doubt thinking this will expedite the process and the Democrats will notice his tone and come on home. He's wrong but it's worth a shot.

The thing is, if you give an ideologue an inch, he/she will take a mile. As it is, Daniels is a potential presidential candidate, though he claims he is not. He has risen to national prominence of late with some high profile speeches and interviews. He wants to appear self-confident and rational. He governs with common sense.

There is no doubt the man is a fiscal conservative - he has a record as a two term governor to prove it. He is a strong enough Republican to be preferable to a Democrat in that office.

Tuesday afternoon a bit of a firestorm swept social media as Daniels gave a wink and a nod to state Republicans to back off pending "right to work" legislation. The knee jerk reactors did as expected - hang him from the rafters, they cried. He caved. He must not be a true conservative.

One place to draw a line: "Right to Work" laws. Mitch Daniels is drawing plenty of conservative heat for opposing his legislature's Right to Work law. But Daniels, like Walker, may be taking the true conservative position.

Advocates describe Right to Work laws as preserving workers' freedom not to join a union, which is a noble goal -- but it's not what Right to Work laws do. In fact, these laws interfere with the right of contract and they bar certain consensual economic arrangements -- specifically, they bar employers from agreeing to hire only union workers.

Right to Work laws bar employers from imposing a different sort of condition: the requirement that all employees join a union. Thus they take away property rights and infringe on the right of contract.

There are plenty of stupid labor laws that restrict employer freedom, but none of these laws force employers to have a closed shop. Preventing employers from agreeing to a closed shop is no free-market solution.

The truly conservative approach to labor would be to allow the business owner to make his/her own choice as to what type of contract with his/her employees is agreed upon. Union shop, non-union shop - it is up to the owner. There is no restriction that says it must be either way. A restriction is a restriction, no matter which side you may ideologically be aligned.

Mitch Daniels is a fiscal conservative. He is a common sense politician. If telling fellow Republican elected officials that the Right to Work legislation is not a deal-breaker for him and it allows the budget mending process to move forward, so be it. Indiana is not Wisconsin.

Daniels wants the opportunity to pass his agenda. It's that simple. A Right to Work law has never been his stated focus.

Even Mr. Daniels, who has stood up to union opposition in the past, seems hesitant. He told the Indianapolis Star that right to work "may be worth a look," but he added it "is not on my agenda." He's worried that the issue so antagonizes unions that it could derail the rest of his legislative agenda.

In theory, Daniels is in favor of a Right to Work law but believes it is a big enough issue to be fully debated and allow the voters to have a say in it, not just passed within larger legislation. He doesn't want the issue used as a political football.

Gov. Mitch Daniels had warned his party late last year against pursuing so-called “right to work” legislation. While he agreed with it philosophically, he said it was a big issue that needed a state-wide debate and noted no Republican had run on this in the November election.

If no Republican ran on the issue, then why is it such a focus now? It is not right for either party to take advantage of a situation - a state with budget shortfalls - to slip in side issues. We don't like it when Democrats do it. We shouldn't do it either.


Kevin Whited said...

Perhaps "right to work" is a plank in the Indiana GOP's state party platform?

I don't know if that's the case, but if it is, then it's not a stretch to think some GOPers would pursue it as policy even if folks didn't explicitly run on it in any given election.

There is room for debate on the conservative side on "right to work" to be sure. I, for one, do not find Tim Carney's post all that persuasive, since our political system does not always allow for fixes that a law&econ prof might think optimal. But certainly the matter could be debated, and I don't blame Daniels for trying to keep it from derailing his bigger agenda. He's pretty good at keeping his eye on the ball in terms of legislative process politics.

Propaganda's Antimatter said...

actually, 'right to work (under crippled contract conditions)' is a conservative tactic/goal. it's libertarians who oppose unnecessary govt meddling in private agreements.