Barry Aycock must have it pretty good. He has located the international headquarters of his unique pesticide agri-business firm, Agxplore, Inc., in the poverty stricken Bootheel area of Missouri. In Parma, Mo., Agxplore can draw from a large pool of desperate workers who would never think of unionizing his plant.
These aren’t high paying union jobs, mind you. And surely Aycock has a lean business model, with low labor costs, saving him hundreds of thousands of dollars. So it is odd that someone like him would get involved in the right-to-work issue in Missouri.
He reacted to a move by Missouri Republican to pass right-to-work legislation in Missouri by writing a strident article against these fine Republicans. He evidently frowns upon right-to-work, and claims it is a reason for all sorts of societal ills. One of the Bootheel’s biggest employers Nordynne, decided to move manufacturing facilities to Mexico, eliminating 200 jobs in Boonville and another 500 in Popular Bluff.
He is right to protest this move, since companies like Nordynne often don’t let state officials know that they are contemplating a plant closing. The facility in Popular Bluff is a hour’s drive from Parma. Still, it’s hard to see why he is in favor of unions when Agxplore is non-union. Perhaps it is because he is a well-connected Democrat, and this is what well-connected Democrats do: they fight for causes (like Obamacare) that, if implemented, may very well destroy their own business.
But right to work states receive far more favor than Aycock is willing to admit. Two right-two-work states, Alabama and Mississippi, have foreign automobile plants. What’s more, foreign automobile manufacturers generally locate in state’s that are not known for their unions: Toyota has two plants in Indiana and the largest in Kentucky. BMW chose to locate their plant in South Carolina.
Honda has two in Ohio and another in Alabama. Nissan has one in Smyrna Tenn., and another in Mississippi. What is interesting about this list is that none of these manufacturers chose to locate a plant in Detroit or Michigan for that matter. And, both Alabama and Mississippi both have high poverty rates. Michigan recently became a right-to-work state, probably for that reason.
While it’s true that union wages are generally higher, does becoming a right-to-work state really increase the mortality rate? This is difficult to support with facts, since mortality rates, and crime, is much higher in bigger cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, all of which are highly unionized. Public unions are generally cause of financial instability and unacceptable levels of public debt.
One could even argue that union wages and benefits have squeezed services that make life more livable for people. Illinois debt because of the cost of union pensions is in the billions of dollars; the state's credit rating may be affected if further action is not taken, which will result in higher interest rates and higher payments on public debt. The public approved a state referendum in Illinois that would limit the cost of funding public pensions.
Other states are attempting to approve similar measures. The City of St. Louis is attempting to limit the financial liability brought on by police and firefighter benefits, laying off public safety personnel in lieu of union benefits. The common denominator in all of these financial woes is that the financial deals with public unions were approved by Democrat-controlled legislatures and city councils.
The legislation proposed by Missouri Republicans, HB77, would make it illegal to require an employee to engage in labor union activity as a condition of employment. Employees would no longer be required to pay union dues, which would affect a union’s bargaining power, since unions are required to represent all workers whether they pay dues or not. But more importantly, it would affect the union’s ability to collect dues.
It’s hard to see where making it harder for unions to collect dues would lead to more poverty and death. In Illinois, legislators are having trouble funding public schools because of union contracts and pension debt. This obviously does not increase the ability of local teachers to provide better services for students. Other states, like California and New Jersey, are slowly being bankrupted because of public union contracts.
All three are non right-to-work states, and highly unionized. And if it’s true that having unions makes for a better environment for employees, then why not welcome unions into the Agxplore plant in Parma? As a well-connected Democrat in a conservative state, these are issues that are important for a shrinking union worker population. Aycock could make introducing a union to his plant a model for liberal activists who would like all workers to unite, to provide full benefits and higher wages to all workers, in big cities and small.
But the people in Parma may not even know that their town is the international headquarters of Agxplore. People are certainly not flocking to take advantage of jobs there. From 2000 to 2010, the population in Parma has decreased, from 713 in 2000, to 852 in 2010. Agxplore also sells their products to farmers, who traditionally use few or seasonal farm workers to produce their crops.
It would be impossible to unionize most farm businesses because of the added cost to farmers. Farming is also a family business that is often passed down from one generation to another. Children grow up learning to farm from their parents. Introducing unions to family farms would have a devastating impact on smaller farmers in Missouri and other states that are big crop producers.
So why would a business like Agxplore not want union activitsts around? Probably the same reason why his firm did not register pesticides with the EPA, something that companies do to keep from paying regulatory fees and gain on the competition.
The EPA announced in 2012 that Agxplore was among three firms that reached settlements over pesticide violations, involving the sale and distribution of plant growth regulators. The chemicals are controlled by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Roden-ticide Act. AgXplore International agreed to pay $237,573 for 212 counts of the sale or distribution of 19 unregistered pesticide products.
In 2010, Aycock was appointed by Gov. Jay Nixon to serve on the Commission on Retirement, Removal and Discipline. He is three years into his five-year term on the commission, which meets and communicates by phone and e-mail during the year. The others on the commission include Hon. David L. Dowd, chairman, Arthur S. Margulis, secretary, Skip Walther, Hon. Joseph M. Ellis and Adrienne B. Morgan.
© 2013 Larry Ingram
Based in St Louis,
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