The Leaflet: Right-to-Work Is Right for America

Published August 24, 2017

This week is National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW), an annual effort started by the Nevada Policy Research Institute and the Association of American Educators to highlight the benefits of giving employees the freedom to opt out of union membership. The Heartland Institute is one of many participating organizations in NEFW.

Currently, there are 28 states with right-to-work (RTW) legislation, which gives workers the right to refrain from joining a union, including not having to pay union dues or fees, without being penalized.

A newly released NEFW study compares the attitudes, performances, and management of union employees in RTW states compared to those in non-RTW states. When asked about contract negotiations, working conditions, job security, fringe benefits, and number of hours worked, union members in both RTW states and non-RTW states rated these factors highly, with no significant differences between their ratings. 

Opponents of RTW say union members in non-RTW states are significantly disadvantaged, but the study found members in both RTW and non-RTW states “expressed broad support [above 70 percent] for the opportunity to regularly vote on whether to keep representation from their current union (a process often called ‘recertification.’)”

RTW policies also have been proven to have a positive economic impact on state economies. A survey of CNBC’s Global CFO Council members shows two-thirds believe RTW laws are “important” or “very important” when it comes to business location or expansion. States with these policies have attracted more businesses, experienced greater job growth, and increased union membership compared to states without RTW laws, such as Illinois.

As Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans describes in a recent Research & Commentary on the subject, “States enacting RTW policies have experienced positive economic progress across the board. Regionally, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin have passed RTW and experienced far greater job growth than Illinois has over the same period.”

Ball State University professor Michael Hicks concluded in his 2016 study on the effect right-to-work laws have on worker productivity: “We estimate a Cobb-Douglas production function for manufacturing industries at the state level and find that total factor productivity in non-RTW states was about 57 percent of the level in RTW states. … Furthermore, our firm-level analysis from the 2007 Survey of Business Owners found that RTW states achieved higher productivity (sales per employee) than firms in non-RTW states.”

Additionally, a 2014 Gallup poll found a majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans alike, approve of RTW laws. Seventy-one percent of respondents said they would vote for such laws and 82 percent said they believe “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will.”

Union membership rates are at all-time lows, and RTW law adoptions are at all-time highs. State legislators should consider carefully this trend toward embracing employee freedom and implement right-to-work legislation in their own state.

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