Last Updated: 12:35 AM, December 12, 2012
Posted: 10:26 PM, December 11, 2012
Union bosses are fuming at the prospect of a Michigan Right to Work law, but New Yorkers concerned about protecting employee freedom and reviving their state’s flagging economy should consider Michigan’s example.
It’s hard to imagine the Empire State adopting a Right to Work law — but it would be right for businesses, taxpayers and workers.
Big Labor’s top officials huff and puff about Right to Work laws, but they never tell you what they actually do. That’s because nearly 80 percent of Americans support the Right to Work principle when it’s presented to them in straightforward terms.
Right to Work laws don’t ban unions, nor make union organizing illegal. They don’t impinge on anybody’s right to voluntarily join a labor organization. Instead, Right to Work laws ensure that no worker can be forced to join or pay dues to a union to get or keep a job.
This straightforward principle is aimed at protecting workers’ freedom of association. In New York and other states without Right to Work, nonunion employees are routinely forced to financially support unions they have no interest in joining or associating with.
And union officials then use their power to extract dues from nonunion workers to funnel that cash into Big Labor’s political war chest.
A Right to Work law would end this coercive arrangement in New York by ensuring that no worker is forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. It would also help make union officials more accountable to workers: If voluntary members are the only ones paying dues, union leadership would have to become more responsive to those workers, lest it lose out on potential revenue.
But while the main case for Right to Work has always rested on the importance of employee freedom, the economic benefits are also worth mentioning. The US Labor Department’s statistics reveal that New York’s economic track record comes up short when compared to Right to Work states.
Over the past decade, private-sector employment as measured by the Bureau of Economic Analysis grew by an average of 12.5 percent in Right to Work states. Meanwhile, New York’s private sector-growth was just 8.8 percent. Indeed, Right to Work states as a whole have long outperformed on job creation, compared to compulsory-unionism states.
And those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Not only are more jobs created in Right to Work states, employees’ paychecks go farther in states with protections against compulsory unionism.
A recent study conducted by University of Colorado economist Barry Poulson showed striking results: Households in Right to Work states enjoy nearly $4,300 more in purchasing power than their counterparts in non-Right to Work states.
And those numbers don’t tell the whole story. Basically, these overpowered unions push up prices for a host of other products and services – increasing the cost of living for everyone. They also drive up taxes, cutting deeper into take-home pay.
When you adjust for New York’s higher cost of living the contrast is particularly stark. In 2011, individual New Yorkers had an average disposable income of $32,875, a figure that accounts for cost of living adjustments. Residents in Right to Work states, on the other hand, had an average real disposable income of $36,938.
A Right to Work law could also help tame New York’s bloated public sector and spare overburdened taxpayers. Although public-sector union bosses are technically banned from using nonunion workers’ dues for politics, they often end-run that restriction to give money to pliant politicians and lobby for unnecessary spending projects and wasteful work rules. A New York Right to Work law would cut off the flow of forced union dues for politics — a move that would force public-sector union officials to reconsider their spending priorities.
From Indiana to Florida and Idaho to Texas, Right to Work laws have a proven track record of protecting employee freedom while encouraging economic growth. If a Big Labor stronghold like Michigan can see the light, New York certainly can too.
Mark Mix is the president of the National Right to Work Committee.