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Are we going to West Virginia this?

WEST Virginia has, in shale gas, an opportunity to change the fortunes of individuals, communities and state government itself.

When you're 49th in per capita income, your communities are crumbling in front of your eyes, and your state government faces at least $15 billion in unfunded liabilities, rapid economic growth is just what the doctor ordered.

And what is the first thing that happens when investors show up?

West Virginia's organized labor community shifts into its junkyard dog mode, attacking Dominion Energy, which has its West Virginia headquarters in Clarksburg.

Dominion has 2,800 miles of pipeline here, has customers in 32 counties, and employs more than 1,300 people — 80 percent of them union members.

Furthermore, in daunting economic times, Dominion is investing $500 million to build a gas processing plant in depressed Marshall County. It is, of course, hiring people to do that, and some of them are represented by unions.

And what does the company get for its trouble?

Attack ads by unions. Labor is even out taking pictures of "foreign" license plates as if workers from other states were evil.

This must be mystifying to hard-working people who are exactly like hard-working West Virginians.

Most of them come from right-to-work states where politicians let individuals decide on unions for themselves. They aren't used to such goofiness.

Worse, as big players in the gas industry are asking West Virginia what regulations they will face here, what do labor's lackeys in the Legislature do?

Insist on a provision that would require companies to report employees' home states,  and warn that the loss of that provision endangers passage of the bill.

Are West Virginians going to West Virginia this? Again?

West Virginians are fed up with it — and fed up of the poverty and lack of opportunity it produces.

They're fed up with losing their kids to the New South, where corporations go.

And they're fed up with the Democratic Party's support for labor's hostility to employers.

What has that produced for West Virginians?

Twenty-three years at 49th in per capita income. Kids who don't live here.

What has it produced for organized labor in West Virginia?

The steel industry is gone. Century Aluminum is sitting idle.

Don't get me wrong. Americans have a rock-solid right to freedom of association, and in some industries, if unions didn't exist, you'd have to invent them.

But the Democratic Party's alliance with shortsighted labor leadership hasn't produced for workers or the population, and now threatens the party itself.

Big Labor jumped in the bag for Barack Obama immediately, handing him millions of its members' money with the expectation of receiving political favors.

And what did the rank and file get for their money?

Well, the UMWA got EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and the administration's war on coal.

Did all rank-and-file union members in this state vote for  the Democratic presidential candidate in the last three cycles?

Could they be impatient with state Democrats' lack of results, too?

In West Virginia, they got poverty.

Republican Bill Maloney came within 7,000 votes of beating pro-growth Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin, just a few months ago.

Labor seems unable to adjust to the fact that industry isn't the people's enemy anymore.

State Democrats should not make the same mistake.

The Legislature should pass a shale bill that makes this state competitive with Ohio and Pennsylvania — period — lest it weaken the most import alliance of all, the one with voters.

There is only one set of fingerprints on 49th in per capita income — Democrats' — and West Virginians know it.

Again, don't get me wrong. I do not hate unions. I just think working people deserve results, and West Virginians aren't getting them.

It's time they did.

Maurice is editorial page

editor of the Daily Mail. She may be reached at 348-4802 or hanna@dailymail.com.


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