Threatening workers with death may not be the best message for West Virginia AFL-CIO bosses to broadcast, but desperate times call for desperate measures.
Following the lead of the national AFL-CIO, the state union coalition is trying to block right-to-work — which lets workers opt out of paying unions — by calling the policy a deadly corporate plot.
Warning that right-to-work has “been shown to increase workplace injuries and deaths by as much as 54 percent,” a West Virginia AFL-CIO radio ad asks, “doesn’t that make it a ‘right to die on the job’ law?”
Republicans plan to introduce a right-to-work bill in the West Virginia Legislature in January, and think they have enough votes to override Democrat Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s likely veto. Polling shows most voters in the state support right-to-work.
Based on AFL-CIO’s own 2015 Death on the Job report, the fatal workplace injury rate in West Virginia is worse than in 23 of America’s 25 right-to-work states.
Right-to-work simply lets workers choose whether to pay unions. It doesn’t stop workers from unionizing, and it doesn’t stop unionized workers from negotiating over safety issues.
Logic suggests — and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data confirm — workplace fatalities are more common in professions involving heavy machinery and dangerous work. Many of those professions are more prevalent in right-to-work states than in forced-unionism states.
But the West Virginia AFL-CIO is essentially telling workers they’d be more likely to die in car crashes, falls, wild animal attacks or other workplace accidents if they were free to choose whether to pay unions.
A West Virginia AFL-CIO spokeswoman failed to respond to questions from Watchdog.org about how workers’ lives are endangered by letting them choose whether to pay unions.
Union bosses are furious with West Virginia Radio Corporation for its decision to stop airing the “right to die on the job” advertisement and two other West Virginia AFL-CIO spots after broadcasting the ads on its network of stations for several days.
“We’re working to get the truth out there through our own advertisements, exercising our free speech rights, and we’re effectively banned from the airwaves in a major portion of the state,” West Virginia AFL-CIO president Kenny Perdue said in a news release.
In a Charleston Gazette-Mail interview, West Virginia AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer Josh Sword suggested libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch were trying to “control the airwaves.”
In 2013, West Virginia AFL-CIO and affiliated groups paid Sword $122,565; Perdue got $98,541. The labor unions’ revenue comes from workers in the form of dues and mandatory fees.
“The ‘right to die’ campaign borders on the absurd and is an insult to our intelligence,” Garrett Ballengee, executive director of the free-market Cardinal Institute, told Watchdog.org.
“We should remember, labor leaders have been telling us that wages in right-to-work states are much lower than in forced unionism states — which isn’t true, by the way, when we account for cost of living,” Ballengee said.
“Do labor leaders expect us to believe workers in right-to-work states are that naive and have some sort of death wish that they’re willing to accept lower pay and higher risks of fatalities when they could simply move to another state?”
“This type of desperation on the part of labor leaders tells us that we are simply witnessing the death rattle of a rigid, coercive and outdated labor system in the Mountain State,” Ballengee concluded.
Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin have all implemented right-to-work since 2012. West Virginia’s legislative session begins Jan. 13.
Listen to the West Virginia AFL-CIO’s “right to die on the job” ad here:
A full transcript of the advertisement follows:
West Virginia families face tough times. But instead of improving our economy, the new legislative leadership is taking orders from out-of-state corporate CEOs and pushing a so-called right-to-work law that does nothing to create jobs. In fact, it’s been shown to increase workplace injuries and deaths by as much as 54 percent. Doesn’t that make it a ‘right to die on the job’ law? Tell your legislator right-to-work is wrong for West Virginia. Paid for by the working men and women of the West Virginia AFL-CIO.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated West Virginia’s fatal workplace injury rate was worse than 24, as opposed to 23, right-to-work states