NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Right to Work = Economic Growth

October 19, 2010

California Congressman Brad Sherman (D) has introduced legislation to repeal right-to-work laws in the 22 states that have them.  "Right-to-work" refers to the right of states to prohibit closed shops, a workplace that requires a worker to be a member of a labor union and to pay dues to that union, says Greg Schneider, a senior fellow with the Kansas Policy Institute and an associate professor of history at Emporia State University.

Private sector union membership has declined since the mid-1950s, especially as companies shifted production to lower-cost states in the Sun Belt.  Private sector union membership was once as high as 45 percent of the workforce but today it's around 15 percent.

Unions blame right-to-work laws for their plight.  But increasingly the number of union jobs declined because the companies where unions were dominant -- the Big Three automakers for instance -- could not remain competitive under the old economic model, says Schneider.

Let's look at some facts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  • From 1999 to 2009, right-to-work states have added 1.5 million private sector jobs for a 3.7 percent increase; states which are not right-to-work lost 1.8 million jobs over the same decade, for a decline of 2.3 percent.
  • Some states, like Michigan and Ohio, home of the powerful United Auto Workers Union, have hemorrhaged private sector jobs, declining 17 percent and 10 percent respectively over that time period.

The question here is simply about individual liberty, says Schneider.  Should the individual worker have the right to decide whether to pay dues to a union, or should that decision be forced on him by others?

Source: Greg Schneider, "Right to Work = Economic Growth," Daily Caller, October 13, 2010.

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