Time for some more union mythbusting. Today’s lesson centers on an old union chestnut about right-to-work laws, which forbid unions from collecting dues without the employee’s individual consent. Such laws, which are on the books in 22 states, are despised by unions. No surprise there. So it is also no surprise that Indiana AFL-CIO President Nancy Guyott is fretting about a proposed right-to-work law in her state, painting an apocalyptic picture for us in the Indianapolis Star:
Wages for all workers are driven down. Both union and non-union workers in states with these laws make an average of $5,538 less a year than those who live in states without the law. …
Overall quality of life declines. In addition to the decreased buying power of those in right-to-work states, the infant mortality rate is 16 percent greater while the poverty rate for all people is 19 percent higher and is 26 percent higher for children. Seven of the 10 poorest states are right-to-work states.
The notion that right-to-work laws lead to lower wages and more poverty is cited constantly by labor leaders. The AFL-CIO calls right-to-work “right-to-work-for-less”.
These claims are transparently preposterous. Guyott does nothing to prove that right-to-work laws actually cause lower wages. All her statistics prove is that right-to-work laws tend to be more popular in the conservative South and West, which are generally poorer than, say, the Northeast.
Causation is always difficult to prove for an issue like this. But as long as we’re trying, a far better indicator than wages or the poverty rate is overall economic growth. And here the numbers are clearly in favor of right-to-work laws. Americans for Prosperity looked at the data and found that right-to-work states had 1.3 percent higher productivity growth, 8.7 percent higher job growth, and 8.1 percent higher economic growth between 1997 and 2007. AFP also found that unemployment tended to be lower in right-to-work states. (And unions are all about creating jobs, right?)
But organized labor knows this. The AFL-CIO studied the figures from 2000 and 2009, and found that income dropped an average of 3 percent in right-to-work states and 5 percent in union shop states. Funny how that never made it into a Richard Trumka stump speech. Not good news for anyone, but worse news for union shop states.
Politifact Wisconsin consulted several economists on this issue. They generally agreed that right-to-work states had higher income growth, though they disagreed over the extent of causation.
What we do know is that right-to-work laws protect worker freedom and make it harder for unions to siphon money from employees. “Right-to-work-for-less”? More like right-to-ignore-the-facts.