Editor’s Note: a guest post by Sen. Jack Donahue of Covington, who just completed 12 years of service in the Louisiana legislature. Sen. Donahue is in the construction business.
Recently, I attended a GNO, Inc. meeting in New Orleans entitled Crisis Point and I recognized the level of frustration that I was hearing from so many business owners in Louisiana.
Current conditions are reminding me of a time in the 1970’s when this state was being torn apart and we were in a state of revolt about the condition of the business climate in Louisiana. Let me set that scene:
Edwin Edwards was reigning from the Governor’s Mansion and Victor Bussie, the head of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, was calling the shots across the state and especially in the Capitol.
Both the House and Senate at the Capitol were almost fully Democrat and there were just a few Republicans elected to the Legislature. There existed a discontent on the part of business, and it enveloped the state. We were being poorly represented in the Legislature, which was resulting in our state being beset with labor strife in the form of strikes and jobsite violence. The Free Enterprise System was being destroyed.
I recall pickets on my jobsites on a daily basis; many of my fellow contractors were having the same experience. We were fighting for our right to run our own businesses. The oilfield was virtually in flames as contractors such as Brown and Root fought for their right to complete their plant work without interference from the unions.
Times were tough, but so were the people involved.
Out of this morass came a guy named Ed Steimel, who united the business community by taking on the Right To Work fight through his then-new organization, called LABI. He, along with other leaders such as Archie Lyles with ABC and Charlie Smith with CILC, got everyone involved and the overwhelming sentiment on the part of the business community was so united and focused that Right To Work legislation was introduced and passed both houses of the legislature.
This happened because we had dynamic leadership united by a cause that could not be denied. I remember being in the Capitol during the voting process and both chambers were packed with union antagonists – who were very menacing by design. We won the day and the legislation passed – a miracle! Everyone said it could not happen in Louisiana, but it did.
The final part of the 1976 miracle was that Gov. Edwards signed the legislation. He had no choice, because not only was it the decision of the Legislature but, more importantly, it was the overwhelming demand by the people of Louisiana to break the union stranglehold of this state.
So what’s the light I see. I saw it on Monday as I listened to business people talk about the political climate in this state, that they have had enough of being labeled a judicial hellhole, enough of insurance rates being the highest in the country, enough of the trial lawyers’ dominance of the Louisiana court system, enough of being last in everything, enough of a lack of leadership on the part of their elected officials. I believe it is a real light, and I believe it is burning brightly.
When enough people in Louisiana can’t take it anymore, things change.
I think we have all had enough!