Illinoisans Shouldn’t Be Forced to Give to Unions

Published February 26, 2015

For the first time in decades, an Illinois governor has dared to utter the words “right to work.”

Gov. Bruce Rauner said, in January, that he would like to allow “Worker Empowerment Zones,” where employees working for unionized organizations would have the option of not paying money to a union.

Right-to-Work Zones

Gov. Rauner says he doesn’t want to make Illinois a right-to-work state, but does want to empower cities, counties and townships to opt to create right-to-work zones. A similar experiment is taking place in Kentucky.

The idea scares union bosses, reliant on receiving some money from folks who don’t want to have anything to do with a union, but it ought to be welcome news to most Illinoisans.

According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in right-to-work states is far outpacing other states.

From 2002 to 2012, the economies of right-to-work states grew by a total of 62 percent, compared to 46.5 percent in non-right-to-work states. Illinois’ economy during that period grew only 36.9 percent.

Neighbors Adopting Right-to-Work

Illinois’ neighbors including Michigan and Indiana have opted to become right-to-work states in recent years.  Iowa has been a right-to-work state for many decades. Missouri has been toying with adopting such a law, and Wisconsin adopted a partial right-to-work measure affecting some government workers.

In fact, 24 states have right-to-work laws.

Supporters of such measures say it makes states more attractive to businesses and that workers shouldn’t be forced to give money to an organization they may not agree with just so they can hold a job.

Evidence from the Borders

Unfortunately, some in the labor movement have injected a level of hyperbole into the discourse that benefits no one. But, look no further than the Quad-Cities. Half of that metropolitan area lies in a right-to-work state, Iowa, and half is in Illinois.

Folks seem just as happy on one side of that Mississippi River community as the other.  Iowa workers don’t quiver when the boss walks by, or find themselves kowtowing to management.

There is evidence showing that right to work stimulates economic growth.

In 1997, University of Minnesota and Federal Reserve economist Thomas J. Holmes looked at areas where right-to-work states bordered non-right-to-work states. Holmes found manufacturing employment was one-third higher on the right-to-work side of the border.

‘Midwesterners Just Like Us’

In recent years, the potential for accelerated economic growth has drawn our neighbors Indiana and Michigan into the right-to-work camp.

They are Midwesterners just like us, working hard and providing for their families.The difference? No one is forcing anyone to give money to a union. Those who give want to do so. What could be fairer than that?

Scott Reeder ([email protected]) is the Executive Editor of the Illinois News Network, a project of the Illinois Policy Institute. An earlier version of this article first appeared at Reprinted with permission.