Recently in several news outlets, Delaware Technical & Community College President Mark Brainard shared encouraging news concerning the great strides the school is making in preparing Delaware’s students for manufacturing jobs in the future through the Pathways to Prosperity initiative. Dr. Brainard and his team are to be commended for their initiative and their execution on such an important program.
That said, it bears mentioning that while students in Delaware are now better prepared for manufacturing jobs, our economy has not been able to produce sufficient quantities of manufacturing jobs to meet the needs of our students. A thriving Delaware demands a thriving manufacturing sector, and we will not create the conditions for that success without reforming our laws governing manufacturing.
The Governor and his allies in the Legislature have drawn a line in the sand on an old concept: that people in manufacturing should be forced to join a union in order to have a job. This outdated idea is now standing in the way of progress in the First State. States like Indiana and Wisconsin have recently reformed their manufacturing laws to allow workers the freedom to work without being forced to join a union, and the jobs have followed. Indiana added 120,000 new jobs by 2014, and 50,000 of those workers chose to join a union.
A recent report from the Rio Grande Foundation showed that between 2003 and 2013, private-sector employment in states that allow their citizens to work without forced unionism grew by 16.2 percent, nearly seven percentage points higher than states that did not reform their laws. Nine of the top 10 states in job growth had instituted these worker freedom laws. And 92 percent of so-called “border-crossing” jobs – where a company created jobs in a new state – went to states with worker freedom laws. Finally, 83 percent of jobs resulting from foreign direct investment (FDI) went to states with these worker freedom laws.
It’s quite simple. For Delaware to compete in the global economy, it is critical that we reform our laws to allow workers the right to employment without being forced to join a union. These reforms do not eliminate or outlaw unions. There are many instances where union activities take place in states with worker freedom laws. These reforms simply say that if you want to join a union, you can, and if you don’t want to, you can keep your job anyway.
We should all be proud of the efforts of Dr. Brainard and his team at DTCC. And we should honor that work by creating the greatest number of manufacturing jobs possible. The easiest step is to pass a worker freedom law this year. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the legislature and with the Governor on these reforms.
State Senator Gerald Hocker (R-Ocean View) represents the 20th District in the Delaware Senate. He is a native of Sussex County.