One of the first campaign promises that Gov. Eric Greitens will seek to fulfill is the passage of right-to-work legislation. Union members are frightened by the prospect. During his tenure, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon consistently opposed such legislation, partnering with Republican legislators from heavily unionized districts to prevent a veto override. Greitens, the newly inaugurated Republican governor, openly supports right to work. “I support it because it would stop companies and union bosses from taking a cut of your paycheck to support their political organization, it’s just common sense. That money is your money — and you should decide how you want to spend it.”
States that have passed right-to-work legislation have experienced a rapid growth in jobs and opportunities, while forced unionization states have experienced losses. Michigan and Indiana made national news when they underwent the arduous process of passing worker freedom legislation. In An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States, by Art Laffer, Steven Moore, Rex Sinquefeld, and Travis Brown, they write: “The right-to-work states enjoyed a jobs growth rate more than three times that of the forced-union states.” Job growth was up 6.8 percent in right-to-work states and only 1.9 percent in states without right to work, they wrote. With Missouri ranking 42nd in job growth, 48th in economic growth and 41st in income growth, the only way to go is up for economic indicators under a pro growth right-to-work business environment.
Since 2011, St. Louis has lost the headquarters of 26 companies for varying reasons ranging from relocations, buyouts, bankruptcies, mergers, and takeovers with a devastating impact on population and jobs. In order to attract corporations back into the state, Missouri must improve economic conditions that employers look at when considering a corporate headquarters relocation.
A study by Stan Greer of the National Institute for Labor Relations Research finds that “living expenses for employees in non-right-to-work states are overall 4.4 percent higher than the national average. Living costs in right-to-work states are 7.1 percent more affordable than the national average.”Additionally, right to work increases real earnings. When adjusted for differences in living costs, the Bureau of National Affairs Union Membership and Earnings Data Book shows employees actually make more money in right-to-work states.
This legislation makes it more difficult for unions to take their membership for granted. Instead of collecting dues irrespective of their performance on behalf of workers, unions are held accountable to their members who are a part of the union by choice.
Gary Casteel, the secretary treasurer of the United Auto Workers Union explained: “This is something I’ve never understood, that people think right to work hurts unions. To me, it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’ I don’t even like the way that sounds, because it’s a voluntary system, and if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”
He’s right. Any worker who dislikes actions his union is taking can opt out. A union is going to pay closer attention to the concerns of members in states where workers can leave if they are unhappy.
What happens once right to work is passed? Will unions go the way of the dinosaurs? Not quite. Union membership has grown in some states that passed right to work legislation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that after passage of right to work in Indiana, union membership decreased and then rebounded after unions actively addressed the concerns of members.
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Change is difficult and can be a frightening prospect, especially when doomsday Chicken Littles continually harp on the horrors that will befall Missourians under right to work. The legislation Greitens seeks does not prevent workers from unionizing. It will increase the level of attention paid to workers by their unions and will attract more businesses to Missouri. It’s past time that our state became more competitive.
Read about what happened to this column HERE.