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Published: Monday, March 16, 1987
Page: P7A

The major task of this year's Legislature will be to pull West Virginia out of the fiscal morass into which it has fallen. It will, regrettably, be diverted from this goal by irrelevant side issues.

One of these is proposed right-to-work legislation.

The Morgantown Dominion-Post recently published a questionnaire asking readers to comment on several legislative issues. There were 180 respondents. Of these, 70.5 percent favor right-to-work legislation. That would appear to show strong public support for such a law.

These results shouldn't be taken at face value, however. The Dominion-Post's "survey" is not based on a random sample. It's what statisticians call a "haphazard" sample. There's no way to measure the degree of error in such a sample so it shouldn't be given much weight.

After the results of this "survey" were prominently displayed, I conducted one of my notoriously unscientific surveys. I called 10 friends or acquaintances (I always use 10 because it's easy to calculate percentages) and asked the same question. Eight of them (80 percent) are opposed to a right-to-work law. The other two are not only unaware of the proposed laws, but have no interest in them.

The results of my "survey" should be given no more weight (but no less) than those of the Dominion-Post.

Why do I object so strongly to a law that would make union membership entirely voluntary even where labor-management contracts exist? Space limitations permit discussion of only a few of the more important objections.

Advocates of a right-to-work law believe it would stimulate economic development in the Mountain State. But businesses do not decide to locate a facility on the basis of any single factor.

If there are companies looking for a right-to-work state, 21 presently exist. They can already locate in one of them, so why would they consider coming to West Virginia?

A major objection to union shops, say right-to-work advocates, is that they infringe on personal freedom. Why should a worker have to pay union dues if he or she doesn't believe in the principles of trade unionism? Unions counter by asking why they should be expected to work for "free riders." Asking workers to pay dues in a union shop, they insist, is no more an infringement on freedom than asking citizens to pay taxes for public services.

Right-to-work advocates claim that states which have outlawed the union shop show faster employment growth than non-right-to-work states. That claim is questionable. But even if it were true, how do they know this growth is due to right-to-work legislation?

This claim is a good example of the post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy.

That is, "after this, therefore because of this." If you want it to rain on Monday, wash your car on Sunday. Anyone who accepts such fallacious reasoning is beyond logical redemption.

The major objection to right-to-work legislation, the bottom line, if I may be forgiven the use of the abominable cliche, is that it is the most divisive kind of legislation imaginable. The only way residents of the Mountain State can hope to cope with its myriad problems is by cooperation among all segments of our society.

The best way I know to ensure that such cooperation will not be forthcoming is to pass a right-to-work law.

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