CHARLESTON, W.Va.: From the editorial page of The Daily Mail:
Today some parts of the world observe International Workers’ Day, a holiday promoted as a celebration of trade unions, the labor movement, and the working class.
The observance comes at a time when some are beginning to see ominous signs in the economy, both across the country and here in West Virginia. There were reports this week that the national economy slowed to a near halt during the first three months of this year, with exports dipping and consumer spending sluggish.
Here in West Virginia, the Daily Mail’s Jared Hunt noted yesterday that the Mountain State Business Index has posted its third consecutive monthly decline. Unemployment claims are up, and both building permits and coal production are down.
It remains to be seen whether the bad numbers are attributable to unusually harsh winter temperatures, or whether they’re indicative of a widespread economic slowdown that could erase the halting progress the economy has made over the past few years.
Regardless, it’s a good time to remember what workers need most: good jobs. Calls for better pay and benefits, worker safety, and more equality in the workplace have a role in policy debates. But the best way to improve working conditions will always be to foster a strong and growing economy.
In a strong economy, new and growing businesses must compete for workers. In a strong economy, workers have choices, and chances for mobility. It is competition for employees, more than any legislation from Charleston or Washington, that can improve wages and conditions for working people.
The Legislature made progress this past winter on charting a new course for the state, one that will welcome new business and investment and make it easier for existing businesses to thrive. Much remains to be done, but the first steps were encouraging.
The goal remains a vibrant state economy that offers prosperity and stability to all West Virginia workers.
As economic winds fluctuate, it will be tempting to wander off-course with knee-jerk responses to events. But leaders would be well-advised to stay on track.