Half-Good Role Model on Right-to-Work

The Wall Street Journal reports that in a new Cato Journal article, Richard Vedder (also a Mackinac Center adjunct scholar) finds that from 2000 to 2008, "some 4.7 million Americans moved from forced-union to right-to-work states," and that over a 30-year period beginning in 1977, "right-to-work states experienced a 23% faster rise in per capita income." This reinforces similar findings in Mackinac Center studies published in 2007 and 2002.

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The article also quotes Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — whom Michigan’s new Gov. Rick Snyder has cited as someone whose leadership he admires — on competing with states that don't force individual workers to join unions as a condition of employment:

Indiana is a case study in the negative effects of forced unionism. Governor Mitch Daniels recently explained why his state lost a bid for a new Colgate factory that would have employed hundreds: "We did absolutely everything we could do. ... We made an offer we believe was competitive in every other respect, but they [Colgate] want to be in a right-to-work state."

Mr. Daniels adds that the lack of a right-to-work law "does hold us back economically. There is no doubt about it." He estimates that when competing with Southern states for businesses, "a very large number — perhaps as many as a quarter — of the deals we don't get a shot at are for just this reason."

Unfortunately, the article also describes Daniel's realpolitik in not placing this invaluable reform on his agenda:

(Daniels) told the Indianapolis Star that right to work "may be worth a look," but he added it "is not on my agenda." He's worried that the issue so antagonizes unions that it could derail the rest of his legislative agenda.

Michigan's new Gov. Rick Snyder's head was probably nodding as he read both parts of Daniels' position. Snyder has said that if a bill ending forced unionism in Michigan lands on his desk, he will sign it, but he'll leave to the Legislature the political heavy lifting needed to get it there.

Professor Vedder's findings suggest that Michigan's Republican Legislature — and Indiana's — should buck the union bosses and put their backs into lifting a right-to-work bill onto their governors' desks. As the Wall Street Journal put it, "new Republican majorities have a rare opportunity to pass a major reform that will reduce union power, help to attract new jobs, and liberate workers from union coercion."