Tag Archives: misleading

The Power of Framing

During one hour of television tonight, I heard four repetitions of an ad in which Mitch Daniels explains that “this one simple law”–the deceptively named Right to Work law–will bring jobs to Indiana, and keep people from being forced to pay union dues. It was extremely well done.  Once during that hour,  I saw a much less persuasive ad calling Right to Work an “attack on working people.” Daniels had specific points to make; the opposing ad simply claimed the bill would be bad for workers. Advantage: Daniels.

Unfortunately for the policy process, Daniels’ specific points were simply untrue. The union ad would have been considerably more effective had it pointed that out.

Let’s begin with the way the administration is framing this issue. People shouldn’t be “forced” to pay “dues or fees” as a condition of employment. Put that way, it seems like a very reasonable position. But let’s ask a slightly different–and arguably more accurate–question: should some people be forced to provide services to their co-workers for free?

Let’s try an analogy: Let’s say you are a dues-paying member of a social club, and a guy you know says he want to come to the parties and enjoy the refreshments, but he doesn’t want to join the club. Fine, you say, just pay for your food and drink. But the visitor doesn’t even want to do that–indeed, he is highly offended by the suggestion.

That’s what Right to Work is really about–letting some folks “mooch” off the efforts of others.

Under current labor laws, no one has to join a union. But if you go to work in a union shop, you are required to pay your fair share of the costs of negotiation–your share of the amount paid to the people who represent you in dealings with management. You are required to pay for a benefit you receive. That’s it.

A lot of claims are being made by those who want to see this law passed, and most of them are either blatantly untrue or incredibly misleading. For example, the National Right to Work Committee has issued a “Fact Sheet” claiming–among other things–that job growth in Indiana was slower than the average job growth of Midwest states with Right to Work laws. Daniels echoes that assertion in his TV ad– but the claim is “true” only because one of those states is North Dakota, where oil fields were recently discovered, leading to a huge boom. If you exclude North Dakota, the remaining Right to Work States averaged a net job loss. Similarly, the Committee lauds Texas, a Right to Work state, for its job creation during the past decade–without bothering to mention that Texas’ job growth was all in the public sector, and entirely due to the growth of government–Texas private sector actually lost jobs during the past decade.

Other claims were similarly misleading. Independent research–as I noted in a previous post--finds absolutely no relationship between job creation and Right to Work laws, either positive or negative. The only documented effect of such laws is to weaken unions and reduce wages for both union and non-union workers.

So–one might ask–why is the Governor so determined to enact this legislation that he is willing to spend a fortune airing highly misleading TV ads? Why is he so intent upon ramming this through that he was willing to impose “safety” regulations that would keep union members from filling the Statehouse, until the public outcry made him rethink that tactic? The only reason I can think of is because such laws hurt unions, and unions generally support Democrats. It’s purely political.

But you’ve got to give Daniels and the Republicans credit: they are one hell of a lot better at framing this issue than the Democrats are in explaining it.