Opinion: This Labor Day, celebrate the freedom and prosperity of right to work
A right-to-work law ensures that no employee can be forced to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. This leaves the decision of union membership and financial support where it belongs: with each individual worker.
While public sector employees nationwide now enjoy right-to-work protections under the First Amendment due to this year’s Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, private sector workers in the 23 forced-unionism states may still be required to fund a union just to keep their jobs.
Enshrining workplace freedom has brought significant economic benefits to the 27 states that have passed right-to-work laws.
Right-to-work states have enjoyed private sector job growth rates more than 1.3 times higher than in forced unionism states, according to an analysis of federal government statistics compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) between 2006 and 2016.
The NILRR study also found that right-to-work states have substantially faster growth in real household consumption over the past decade compared to their forced unionism counterparts. Not only that, but after adjusting for states’ differing costs of living, residents in right-to-work states enjoy over $2,200 in additional disposable income per capita than their non-right-to-work neighbors.
The connection between right-to-work laws and better economic performance is not a surprise. Business experts consistently rank the presence of right-to-work laws as one of the most important factors companies consider when deciding where to expand or relocate their facilities, where they will create new jobs.
For example, the newest right-to-work state, Kentucky, passed its right-to-work law in January 2017, and ever since it has seen a bevy of economic development, with 93,000 employees added in 2017 according to the Department of Labor. That’s no surprise given that in the same year, the Bluegrass State had a record-breaking $9.2 billion in economic investment (nearly double the previous high), with a number of companies specifically citing the state’s new right-to-work law when announcing their investment decisions.
When workers cannot be forced to join or pay dues, union brass must work harder to retain employee support. This encourages union officials to put workers’ interests first, rather than promoting their own power or pushing an agenda that is out of step with the rank-and-file.
No worker should be forced to join or pay money to an organization he or she has no interest in supporting. Right-to-work laws do nothing to impede employees from voluntarily joining or paying dues to a union; they simply ensure that no worker can be forced to hand over a portion of their hard-earned paycheck to union officials just to keep a job.
A labor union that genuinely enjoys employee endorsement will continue to thrive with members’ voluntary support. A union that has alienated the rank-and-file or outlived its usefulness will need to adapt in order to survive.
Workplace choice, employee freedom, and better economic performance are part and parcel of the right-to-work package. What is not to like? This Labor Day, citizens of right-to-work states have much more to celebrate than a three-day weekend.
Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and National Right to Work Committee.