Indiana has used radio advertisements and billboards to lure workers and job providers away from Michigan. The Hoosier state would be even more attractive to businesses and investors should its policymakers adopt right-to-work legislation.
Mitch Daniels recently indicated his support for a state right-to-work law.
Such a law would prevent workers from being compelled to provide financial
support to a union in their workplace in order to remain employed.
adopts a right-to-work law it could have dire financial consequences for
Michigan. At the same time, if Indiana’s experience is similar to that of the other
22 right-to-work states, Hoosiers can expect a variety of benefits:
Right-to-work laws do not prevent unions from forming; they simply prevent workers from being forced to financially support a union.
A right-to-work law will mean more jobs
From 2000 to 2010, employment in right-to-work
states increased 2.3 percent, compared to a 4.0 percent decline in
non-right-to-work states. Indiana saw employment decrease 6.9 percent over
this period, meaning the state lost roughly 207,000 jobs while 1.2 million jobs
were created in right-to-work states.
right-to-work law will mean good wages
economics: when more jobs are available, companies have to be ready to pay more to attract the workers they want. This
occurs with or without a union.
Between 2000 and 2010, personal income grew
57.5 percent in right-to-work states, compared to 40.5 percent in
non-right-to-work states. Indiana saw personal income grow 35.4 percent
over the same period.
During the same
time, disposable personal income increased 65.3 percent in right-to-work
states, compared to 49.4 percent in non-right-to-work states. Indiana
managed a meager 41.8 percent increase over the same time period.
The cost of
living tends to be lower in right-to-work states. A study by the Missouri
Economic Research and Information Center found that in 2009, after adjusting for the cost of living, annual
per-capita disposable income was $35,543 in right-to-work states, compared to $33,389 in non-right-to-work
states. That equates to a $2,154 premium each year for those living in
The bottom line is that wages are just fine in
right-to-work states — and they’re growing faster, too.
A right-to-work law will not affect worker safety
Right-to-work opponents claim that it threatens
worker safety; occupational injury and death statistics tell a different story.
Occupational injuries in right-to-work states, as reported by the U.S. Bureau
of Labor Statistics, were 3.5 per 100 employees in 2009, compared to 3.9
workers in non-right-to-work states. The fatalities in right-to-work states are
slightly higher than in non-right-to-work states: 4.3 vs. 3.1 per 100,000
workers. But this translates to about 2,200 total occupational deaths in
right-to-work states compared to 2,400 total occupational deaths in
non-right-to-work states per year.
occupational injuries are rare in both right-to-work and non-right-to-work
A right-to-work law will not harm unions
Opponents describe right-to-work laws as veiled
forms of union busting, but the real problem is unions themselves. If unions
satisfied workers, one would expect their membership to at least remain
constant. Between 2000 and 2010, however, union membership declined by
9.5 percent in non-right-to-work-states and 9.2 percent in
right-to-work states. Not only is membership falling in both instances, but
non-right-to-work states see their membership declining at a faster rate than
right-to-work states. There are even cases where unions gained membership in
right-to-work states like Nevada or Texas.
Right-to-work laws do not prevent unions from
forming; they simply prevent workers from being forced to financially support a
union. In every right-to-work state, more than three-quarters of workers who
are represented by a union join the union and pay dues voluntarily.
law will take Hoosiers where the rest of the nation is heading
Workers are slowly leaving states like Indiana for
better jobs and better wages.
Right-to-work states experienced population gains of 15.3 percent from
2000 to 2010, compared to
5.9 percent in non-right-to-work states. Indiana did a little better than
most non-right-to-work states, with a population gain of 6.4 percent over
the same period. But this number pales in comparison to the gains seen in
A growing population means new
opportunities and more customers for local businesses.
Americans are not afraid to move when they see a
better opportunity. This is why Michigan would be at a further competitive
disadvantage should Indiana become a right-to-work state. Existing businesses,
entrepreneurs and investors will be drawn to states with inviting labor
climates and minimal regulatory interference from the state. Gov. Rick Snyder
and the Michigan Legislature should take their cue from Indiana’s leadership
and embrace the right-to-work concept. The alternative is losing more
population, jobs and tax revenue to the Hoosier state.
Paul Kersey is director of labor policy at
the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute
headquartered in Midland, Mich. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is hereby granted, provided that the author and the Center are properly