Missouri should follow neighbors to freedom and prosperity
By F. Vincent Vernuccio and Chantal Lovell
After Kentucky became the 27th right-to-work state two weeks ago, Missouri is next in line to give workers the right to choose whether to support a union.
Right-to-work simply means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying union dues or fees. Unions’ ability to collectively bargain with employers over things such as hours, wages and benefits is unchanged by such legislation.
While right-to-work is first and foremost about giving workers freedom, it also sends a loud message to job creators and workers, and the resulting positive impact on jobs, wages and the economy cannot be understated.
Over the past 15 years, right-to-work states have enjoyed higher wages, more personal income growth, faster job creation, larger population increases and lower unemployment rates. Kentucky can expect to see similar benefits in the coming years, and if Missouri hopes to flourish as well, it should follow its neighbor’s lead.
Right-to-work leads to higher wages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income grew nearly 93 percent between 2000 and 2015 in states with right-to-work laws on the book. In states that require forced unionism, incomes grew by only 74 percent on average.
Since Michigan’s right-to-work law went into effect in 2013, weekly earnings are up 9.2 percent, or $71 on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In Indiana, which went right-to-work in 2012, average weekly earnings have increased an impressive 14 percent, or $102. Meanwhile, Missourians saw only modest increases during the same time period — average weekly earnings have risen only 4.4 percent, or $33, since 2012.
Disposable income in right-to-work states tends to be greater because the cost of living is typically less. While workers in non-right-to-work New York are indeed paid more on average than those in right-to-work Alabama, for instance, a dollar goes farther in Alabama than in New York. When considering what people can actually buy for their money, those living in right-to-work states have 4.1 percent higher incomes than their counterparts in non-right-to-work states.
Right-to-work results in more jobs. From 2000 to 2015, private-sector employment grew by 13.5 percent in right-to-work states while growth in non-right-to-work states was less than half that at 5.8 percent. In fact, seven of the 10 states that saw the most private-sector job growth since 2000 are right-to-work.
Since it became right-to-work, Michigan has seen its unemployment rate fall from 8.8 percent — or 45th-worst in the country — to 4.9 percent, or 28th in the country. Indiana’s jobs market saw similar improvements, with unemployment falling from 8.3 percent to 4.2 percent and its national ranking improving from 34th to 17th after implementing right-to-work. Unfortunately, while Michigan and Indiana improved their positions, Missouri’s rank among the states for unemployment has gone in the opposite direction — it fell from 17th to 24th-worst in the country.
Right-to-work makes states more attractive. Growing demand for jobs is attracting people back to the workforce in states that have right-to-work laws. Between 2000 and 2016, populations in right-to-work states grew by 23.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Meanwhile, states that require forced unionism saw growth of only 10 percent. From July 2015 to July 2016, nearly a half million people moved from non-right-to-work states to right-to-work ones.
Right-to-work can be good for unions. More jobs and more workers mean more opportunities for additional union jobs and union members. That is why unions are growing faster in right-to-work states. In 2015, union membership increased by 125,000 in right-to-work states and only 91,000 in non-right-to-work-states and Washington, D.C.
Right-to-work helps workers, the economy and even unions, but most important, workers in right-to-work states enjoy the freedom that comes with being able to choose how they spend their money and which organizations they associate with. Isn’t it only fair to extend these rights and benefits to workers in Missouri?
F. Vincent Vernuccio is the director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a Michigan-based research institution. Chantal Lovell is the media relations manager there.