Early last year, Kentucky and Missouri respectively became the 27th and 28th states to adopt Right to Work laws. But what they have experienced since with regard to labor policy is not at all the same.
The Bluegrass State Right to Work law took effect in January 2017 and has remained in effect ever since. A union boss-instigated lawsuit to overturn the statute was dismissed this January; union lawyers’ appeal has at this writing yet to be heard by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The Show-Me State Right to Work law, in contrast, has yet to take effect. Union bosses were able to use a quirk in the Missouri legal code to block its implementation, and also to put on a statewide ballot a measure known as Proposition A, now scheduled for an August 7 vote. Unless Proposition A is backed by a majority of voters, protections against compulsory unionism will be strangled in the cradle in Missouri.
Top union bosses are now waging a multi-million-dollar campaign, funded largely by compulsory union dues and fees extracted from employees, to perpetuate their forced-unionism privileges. They know the Right to Work law they oppose is overwhelmingly popular. Consequently, the aim of their campaign is to confuse voters about what the law will really do. And a key component of this campaign is predictions of economic doom if the Right to Work law is allowed to take effect.
But Big Labor’s economic narrative is demonstrably false. In neighboring Kentucky, America’s 27th Right to Work law has already been in effect for a year and a half. And the state’s economic future is looking brighter and brighter.
One prominent example of the job-creating investments for which Right to Work Kentucky has successfully competed is a $1.5 billion rolling aluminum mill that will ultimately employ an estimated 600 people in high-paying jobs on a site located near Ashland in Greenup County. Braidy Industries Inc. began construction on this 1.8 million square-foot facility in June. It is expected to begin operations in 2020. Employees will earn an average salary of roughly $70,000 a year.
According to a detailed report for the Associated Press by journalist Adam Beam, Braidy had been considering 24 locations, all of them outside of Kentucky, before the Bluegrass State scored, in the words of company CEO Craig Bouchard, a “come from behind win.”
Beam explained that Kentucky had joined the list of possible sites only after the first week in January 2017, when “the Republican-controlled legislature banned companies from deducting mandatory union dues from employee paychecks.” And Bouchard himself has publicly affirmed that, without its Right to Work law, Kentucky “wouldn’t have been on the list.”
Right to Work protections for employees reduce business-bashing Big Labor bosses’ incentive and ability to secure monopoly-bargaining privileges at high-paying plants like the one Braidy is now building in Kentucky and hamstringing them with union work rules that undercut their flexibility and prevent them from succeeding. That’s why Bouchard’s determination to create manufacturing jobs that pay well and offer excellent benefits only in a state with a Right to Work law makes perfect sense.
The fact is, U.S. Commerce Department data indicate most other primary metal manufacturers agree with Bouchard about the indispensability of Right to Work, even if they aren’t as blunt about their stance as he is. Commerce data show that, from 2006 to 2016, overall, constant-dollar production of primary metals soared by an average of 55 percent in the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books for the entire decade.
Right to Work states’ real primary metal output growth was nearly quadruple the relatively paltry gain for the 24 states where forced union dues were permissible for the whole time from 2006 to 2016, and 5.5 times as great as the increase for then-forced-unionism Missouri alone.
Overall, U.S. factory employment has grown by more than 1.4 million since early 2009, and many more excellent manufacturing job opportunities are on the horizon. But to participate in the gains, Missouri needs to adopt the right policies. And the evidence is clear that a defeat for Proposition A would be a huge step in the wrong direction.
Stan Greer is senior research associate at the National Institute for Labor Relations Research. NILRR’s website is www.nilrr.org. He is also editor of the National Right to Work Committee’s newsletter.