Opinion: New Mexico business community supports right-to-work laws

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New Mexico is the land of enchantment.

Our state is blessed with breathtaking natural vistas and a rich multicultural history. And our people are some of the warmest and kindest you will ever meet.

With all of those blessings you would think our great state would be prospering and rank at the top of every national indicator in growth, jobs, and education. Unfortunately, that is just not the case.

In June 2017, New Mexico had an unemployment rate of 6.4 percent, and it was ranked 42nd by Forbes for growth prospects. Its poverty rate is 20.4 percent, and New Mexico’s college attainment is just 26.5 percent. The state also ranks 49th for educational quality.

How do we explain to our children that we, the business and political leaders of our state, have failed to provide them with the prosperity and opportunity they deserve?

Well it’s time we stop explaining our failures and start taking the bold and necessary steps to secure a future for young New Mexicans and attract talented people from other parts of the country. One of the things we can do is let employees decide if they want to join a union rather than forcing them to do so.

Right-to-work laws allow workers to opt out of union membership and dues without fear of losing their jobs. Twenty-eight states have right-to-work laws on their books, including nearly all of New Mexico’s neighbors. But thanks to a recent federal court decision, local governments can pass their own right-to-work ordinances. And that is exactly what Sandoval County and the City of Rio Rancho have decided to do.

As President of the New Mexico Business Coalition, I support the officials of those jurisdictions in their decision. I am proud to sponsor and include the New Mexico Business Coalition in a letter of support which can be read on our website at nmbizcoalition.org. Other business organizations, community leaders, and liberty-oriented nonprofits have co-signed and we are glad to have them all.

There will be the usual complaints and attacks from organized labor, which has fought right-to-work everywhere. They say that right-to-work increases poverty. But that’s ridiculous. New Mexico already has an unacceptable poverty level without right-to-work protections for our workers, and California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, and it is also not right-to-work.

Union leaders will also say that right-to-work is a Republican attack on workers. Not true; in fact states that have traditionally voted Democrat have recently gone right-to-work, including Wisconsin and Michigan.

Another argument against right-to-work is that it allows workers who don’t join the union to “free ride” on union representation without paying for it. This is also false. Unions can choose to only represent their members; the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), for example, has thousands of people covered by members-only contracts.

The truth is that right-to-work is good for jobs and good for growth. As one spokesperson for a manufacturers association put it in the New York Times, “75 percent of businesses rated locating in a right-to-work state as ‘important’ or ‘very important.’ Moreover, up to half of businesses consider right-to-work as a pass/fail factor when deciding where to invest. They view right-to-work, as dubbed in Site Selection Magazine, as ‘the box that must be checked.’”

It has always been important for economic growth, but as more and more states go right-to-work, it has become an absolute necessity. And it is popular, too: In New Mexico, right-to-work polls favorably at 60 percent. Nationally, nearly three out of four Americans approve of right-to-work, according to a Gallup survey.

Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the New Mexico Legislature will pass a state right-to-work anytime soon. That is why we are supporting the push for local ordinances in Rio Rancho, Sandoval County, and any other jurisdiction in the state that wants to take the prosperity of its citizens into its own hands.

Sonntag is president and founder of the New Mexico Business Coalition.

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