On January 7, Kentucky became the nation’s 27th state to pass right-to-work legislation. Implemented in 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act (THA) allows states to adopt right-to-work laws. Right-to-work gives employees the freedom to choose whether to join a labor union and pay union dues.
According to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, “A Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. However, employees who work in the railway or airline industries are not protected by a Right to Work law, and employees who work on a federal enclave may not be. Moreover, a Right to Work law does not prohibit limitations on when a dues deduction authorization card can be revoked.”
Kentucky has one of the highest union membership rates in the South, and many analysts believe that is because it is one of only a few states in the region without a right-to-work law.
Bill McMorris, a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon, wrote in a recent article, “About 200,000 Kentucky workers were dues-paying union members in 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Union membership has grown in recent years, with a membership rate of 11 percent of the workforce—a 28 percent increase from 2009.”
According the Bluegrass Institute, in the first week of the 2017 legislative session, the Kentucky Legislature passed and Gov. Matt Bevin (R) signed laws addressing the following issues:
- Kentucky became a right-to-work state. No longer are Kentuckians forced to join a union as a condition of employment.
- Kentucky made legislators’ pensions transparent.
- Kentucky repealed the arbitrary and artificial “prevailing-wage” requirements on public projects, saving taxpayers millions of dollars on new schools and government buildings.
- Kentucky prohibited union dues from being used to fund politics.
- And Kentucky determined that union membership should come with an “opt-in” requirement, not just a de facto “yes” that one must later opt out of.
F. Vincent Vernuccio, the Mackinac Center’s director of labor policy, pointed out in a recent Wall Street Journal article voters in right-to-work states have rewarded lawmakers who supported the change, writing, “[T]he union’s bark is a lot worse than its bite when it comes to the election afterward.”
Vernuccio also suggested Kentucky could be the first of several states to pass right-to-work legislation in 2017. “We may see up to 29 [states] before the spring. You’re definitely seeing a snowball effect, and more and more states are looking to give workers freedom.”
States that do not have right-to-work policies should consider implementing them. As the experience of other states shows, right-to-work legislation has a positive effect on states’ economies, workers, and population growth.
What We’re Working On
Budget & Tax
Roadmap for the 21st Century: Welfare Reform
This paper, authored by the Roadmap for the 21st Century Working Group on Poverty and Welfare Reform, describes the “perverse incentives stemming from our outdated, fossilized welfare system” and shows how those incentives can be reversed. The paper summarizes the reform proposals offered by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), and it reveals a new plan that would make the Ryan and Rubio proposals even more effective. The plan described by the Working Group authors would maintain the necessary social safety net while also making it more effective and less economically burdensome on taxpayers. Read more
Research & Commentary: Cuomo’s ‘Free’ Tuition Plan Won’t Help Poor Students or Reduce College Costs
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson examines New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) plan to provide “free” tuition at all Empire State public colleges and universities for students whose families are earning up to $125,000 per year. Because lower-income students already qualify for enough aid to pay for tuition at New York state universities, most of the students who will be helped by this bill will be from middle- and upper-middle-income households, which means New York’s lower- and middle-income families will be paying taxes to subsidize the higher education of children belonging to their affluent and upper-middle-income neighbors. Instead of instituting what would amount to a welfare program for upper-middle-income households, Benson argues, New York would be better off directing this money to school choice programs for low-income K–12 students stuck in poorly performing neighborhood public schools, such as tax credit scholarship programs and education savings account plans. Read more
Energy & Environment
Purdue Researchers Find GMO Ban Would Result in Higher Food Prices and Greenhouse-Gas Emissions
In this story published in Environment & Climate News, Managing Editor H. Sterling Burnett writes about a new study in the Journal of Environmental Protection. Authored by researchers at Purdue University, the study claims a global ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) would result in higher carbon-dioxide emissions and cost billions of dollars in lost welfare. Absent the use of GMO crops, the study finds food prices would be between 0.27 percent and 2.2 percent higher, depending on the region. The study also argues if countries that currently plant GMO crops increase the amount of GMOs they plant to levels comparable to that of the United States, greenhouse-gas emissions would fall by approximately 0.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide globally and up to two million acres of land would revert to forests, grasslands, and wetlands. Read more
Study: Two-Thirds of Medicaid Expansion Enrollees Were Already Eligible
In this Health Care News article, reporter Ben Johnson discusses a New England Journal of Medicine article coauthored Jonathan Gruber, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor and one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The New England Journal article, published in October 2016, found most enrollees in state Medicaid expansion programs were eligible for the government-sponsored health insurance program before the ACA-created expansion went into effect. This means federal taxpayers are paying a higher share of states’ Medicaid bills than they should. Read more
From Our Free-Market Friends
Laboratories of Democracy: How States Get Excellent K–12 U.S. History Standards
Pioneer Education, a center focusing on education reform at The Pioneer Institute, recently released a study that highlights best practices for establishing and updating K–12 history standards. Authors Anders Lewis and William Donovan recommend states use an academically rigorous and open approach to update standards that would provide members of the public and teachers with multiple opportunities to express their views throughout the drafting and review phases of standards development. The co-authors also suggest the development of standards that are academically detailed and specific. The study highlights efforts to update well-respected history standards in six states: Alabama, California, Indiana, Massachusetts, New York, and South Carolina. For instance, the study points to California’s recent standards update in 2016, which, according to the authors, yielded standards that have been poorly received compared to past standards implemented in California and elsewhere. The authors also say the standards in California have drawn accusations of partisanship and ideological bias. Read more