A few weeks ago, I wrote an op-ed for The Ottawa Citizen arguing in favour of right-to-work legislation. I am late to note this, but Ken Georgetti, the President of the Canadian Labour Congress, replied. The Citizen doesn’t keep their links alive indefinitely, so I’m going to reproduce the entire letter:
In his opinion piece, Jonathan McLeod says bringing Southern U.S. state labour laws to Ontario will bring prosperity to the province.
He claims that U.S. states which have eliminated or reduced the ability of workers to join unions have better rates of economic growth than others. He cites a study by Thomas Holmes to support his claim, but fails to mention that Holmes himself makes no such claim. Holmes has said right-to-work states historically pursue a number of other “smokestack-chasing policies such as low taxes, aggressive subsidies and even, in some cases, lax environment-al regulations. Thus my results do not say that it is right-to-work laws that matter, but rather that the ‘pro-business package’ offered by right-to-work states seems to matter.”
Those “pro-business” packages have resulted in the average full-time worker in a right-to-work state earning $1,500 less a year than a similar worker in a non right-to-work state. Is that the kind of economy Ontario’s Conservatives aspire to for this province?
With small businesses already complaining that low demand for their products and services is their biggest concern, making working Ontarians poorer is the wrong path to recovery.
I thank Mr. Georgetti for taking the time to respond. And there are a few clarifications I would like to make.
First, he’s right about the Thomas Holmes study. In my defense, I wrote, “[n]ot all growth can be attributed to such protections, but such trends cannot be ignored.” I was too dismissive of all the complicating factors, and I should have left this argument out. I don’t think it detracts from my greater argue, but Mr. Georgetti is right. (My main argument was based on civil liberty. I think that the biggest argument in favour of right-to-work laws is just giving people the freedom to join associations or not, just as is protected in the Charter.)
To the rest of Mr. Georgetti’s argument, I completely agree! I understand why he would guess that I am in the “pro-business” camp, but I am not. I have written in defense of unions multiple times. I have argued that capitalism will eat itself. And, as I wrote in our democracy symposium, I think the desire of governments to place profit and GDP growth over the lives of individuals is pretty abhorrent.
I am going to take a guess that Mr. Georgetti and I probably have a number of policy disagreements, but I think we are a lot closer on this matter than he realizes.