Friday, September 19th, 2014
Half-True
Paul
Says Rick Santorum "opposes right-to-work"

Ron Paul on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 in a campaign commercial

Ron Paul says Rick Santorum 'opposes right-to-work'

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul takes on his three remaining rivals in this commercial.

In a video ad released Feb. 28, 2012, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, took aim at all three of his remaining rivals in the Republican presidential primary race -- Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.

In this item, we’ll check the ad’s claim that Santorum "opposes right-to-work" -- a policy that "guarantees that no person can be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or not to join, nor to pay dues to a labor union," as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation defines it.

Under the Taft-Hartley Act, passed in 1947, states are authorized to pass such laws, and 23 have done so. (They are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.)

Generally speaking, expanding right-to-work laws is popular among Republican primary and caucus voters, so it has become an issue in this year’s primary season. It’s also on the agenda for lawmakers in states such as Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maine, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

During the primary season, Paul has tried to distinguish himself from Santorum over the issue, charging that Santorum has been soft in his support for right-to-work. We should note that the Paul ad uses the present tense when it says Santorum "opposes right-to-work," so Santorum’s current position will be significant in our analysis.

We began by visiting Santorum’s website. On the site, we found the following under the heading, "The Truth About Right to Work."

"In the Senate, Rick voted to allow states to determine their own right-to-work laws. These laws protect employees from having to join unions in order to work for a company. Today, Rick believes that a National Right-to-Work law is important to curb union abuses and further strengthen the manufacturing sectors of our economy."

In addition to what Santorum said on his website, he has also said the following:

• "I've already signed a pledge and said I would sign a national right to work bill," Santorum said in the CNN debate in South Carolina. After being pressed by moderator John King, Santorum added, "Well, maybe you didn't hear what I said. I said I would support a national right to work law and sign it into law and would support and advocate for one. "

Speaking on WJR-AM 760 in Detroit, Santorum said he would sign national right-to-work legislation. "A national right-to-work bill is something that I would be supportive of," he said.

So "today," Santorum says he supports a national right-to-work law. Viewed in isolation, that would seem to make the Paul ad’s claim flat wrong. However, the fact that Santorum felt the need to add a line on his website about his past views suggests that there’s been some fluidity in his position -- and there has been.

On July 10, 1996, the Senate took a "cloture" vote to move toward consideration of the National Right to Work Act of 1995, which, among other things, would have amended the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act to repeal federal provisions that require employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

According to Senate rules, individual senators or groups of senators have the power to stall bills indefinitely through a filibuster. Such blockages can only be broken by a 60-vote supermajority. If 60 senators vote for cloture, the blocked bill may proceed to a vote on its merits. If fewer than 60 senators vote for cloture, the bill remains stalled.

The cloture vote for the National Right to Work Act of 1995 garnered only 31 yes votes, compared to 68 no votes, meaning that the bill remained blocked. One of those no votes was Santorum’s. So it’s fair to say that Santorum in 1996 helped stop a national right-to-work bill in its tracks. (Santorum was actually one of 20 Republicans who voted no, compared to 31 Republicans who voted yes.)

Santorum has explained this vote on federalism grounds -- that he didn’t like the idea of Pennsylvania’s long-established laws being overturned by federal decree.

"When I was a senator from Pennsylvania, which is a state that is not a right-to-work state, the state made a decision not to be right-to-work," Santorum said when pressed on the issue during a CNN debate in South Carolina on Jan. 19, 2012. "And I wasn't going to go to Washington and overturn that from the federal government and do that to the state."

The fact that Santorum had to win election in a swing state may also have been a factor: He comes from western Pennsylvania, where it’s common to find socially conservative but pro-labor Democrats willing to cross lines and vote for a Republican.

Meanwhile, on one occasion -- a Fox News debate in Orlando, Fla., on Sept. 22, 2011 -- Santorum sidestepped a direct question about a national right-to-work law. Santorum focused his answer on assailing public-employee unions, saying he would "support a bill that says that we should not have public employee unions for the purposes of wages and benefits to be negotiated." But he did not specifically address the question about his stance on a national right-to-work law.

Santorum’s explanation of his change in position didn’t cut it with Paul’s campaign.

"Fact: Rick Santorum voted against it in the United States Senate. End of story," Jesse Benton, Paul's national campaign chairman, told PolitiFact.

Paul’s position also meshes with the "National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation." Patrick Semmens, the group’s director of legal information, last month emailed the website BuzzFeed that Santorum's "position on right-to-work should be deeply troubling to the 80 percent of Americans who believe workers should not be forced to pay dues or fees to a union just to get or keep a job. Not only has he refused to answer the National Right to Work Committee's Presidential Survey, but while in the Senate he joined with Democrats to filibuster the National Right to Work Act."

Even so, as we noted before, the Paul ad uses the present tense -- and that clashes with Santorum’s statement, reiterated on several occasions, that he supports a national right-to-work law today.

Our ruling

Santorum clearly has a zig-zagging history with his positions on a national right-to-work law. If we’d rated this on the PolitiFact Flip-O-Meter, it would likely qualify as a Full Flop. However, the Paul ad states that Santorum "opposes right-to-work" -- which means today. Despite his past history, Santorum has stated on several occasions that he would work on behalf of (and if he became president, sign) a national right-to-work law. On balance, we rate the ad’s claim Half True.