If you were to poll our state legislators, you would find that the vast majority embrace the conservative tenets of small, less-intrusive government based on a strong belief in individual liberty.
But there is often a disconnect between what our legislators proport to believe and what they practice.
Wednesday provided a perfect example.
In a single day, the Mississippi House passed four bills to make it more difficult for unions to organize in the state.
What this clearly communicates is that state government is not only inserting itself into the discussion between labor and management, it is choosing sides. That is unfortunate and, in the case of some of the bills passed Wednesday, may even violate federal law.
So much for less-intrusive government.
The debate over unions has been around since the dawn of the industrial age. The merits and flaws of unions have been well established. On one hand, there is something quintessentially fair for workers to have some voice in working conditions, pay, benefits and requirements. Today, all workers — union and non-union alike — benefit from the victories won through union organizations, things such as the 40-hour work week, the eight-hour work day, sick leave, workplace safety rules, overtime pay and paid vacation all originated through the workers’ ability to organize and negotiate with management and many, many others things we are likely to take for granted.
On the other hand, one only has to look north to the Rust Belt, a region whose demise, fairly or not, has been blamed in part on the out-sized power of unions.
In Mississippi, of course, there has always been a negative view of unions. The notion that a worker who doesn’t like his job is free to leave is an idea deeply ingrained in our psyche.
There is also no arguing that Mississippi’s hard-line policies against unions has helped the state lure major industry to our state in recent years. The availability of “affordable” labor, along with an aggressive effort by local and state government to provide incentives for companies willing to relocate, have helped lure such major employers as Nissan, Toyota and, soon, Yokohama Tire Company, to our state. The migration of those jobs from the labor havens of the Rust Belt have helped brighten Mississippi’s economic future.
And yet, Mississippi workers continue to be among the poorest paid in the nation, a condition that should give our lawmakers pause.
The Dispatch Editorial Board is made up of publisher Peter Imes, columnist Slim Smith, managing editor Zack Plair and senior newsroom staff.