Commentary

Cost of Forced Unionism Mounts Ever Higher

By Stan Greer | July 15, 2021 | 11:32am EDT
A man proffers dollar bills. (Photo credit: Getty/Yuri Cortez/AFP)
A man proffers dollar bills. (Photo credit: Getty/Yuri Cortez/AFP)

What will it take to convince elected officials in forced-unionism states that are economically torpid or unaffordable for middle-class Americans, or both, that they must change course, or face potentially grave ballot-box repercussions for favoring Big Labor bosses over everyone else?

Eventually, shrinking revenue bases may finally shake the complacency of Big Labor politicians who don’t seem to mind if far more taxpayers are leaving their state than are moving in.

It shouldn’t require fiscal catastrophes to persuade state elected officials to stop hurting the vast majority of their constituents just so the special privileges of a relative handful of union bosses can be perpetuated and even expanded. But state insolvency may well arrive before Big Labor politicians in states like California, New York, and Illinois acknowledge that monopolistic unionism has to be rolled back.

Let the facts speak for themselves.

Nearly three years ago, in a previous commentary for CNSNews, I drew on data from the IRS Statistics of Income (SOI) division to document the decades-long and ongoing outmigration of taxpayers from the generally slow-growth states that permit the firing of employees for refusal to bankroll an unwanted union and their relocation in faster-growth Right to Work states, where such firings are prohibited. 

Data furnished by the SOI make it possible to calculate the sum total of wages, salaries, and other income taxpayers take with them when they move from one state to another. The SOI also records the number of personal income tax filers who move (typically with their dependents) across state lines, based on address changes in their tax returns. The data are arranged according to the year taxes are filed.

Previously, I documented how, between 2015 and 2016 alone, forced-unionism states lost a net total of $24.3 billion in adjusted gross income due to taxpayer flight to Right to Work states. The most recent available migration data, for the Tax Filing Year 2019, confirm that the cost of taxpayer flight is mounting for the 23 remaining forced-unionism states.

They show a total of 1.546 million tax filers were residing that year in a forced-dues state after residing somewhere else in the U.S. the previous year. Meanwhile, roughly 1.758 million tax filers were residing in a forced-dues state in 2018, but filed from somewhere else in the U.S. in 2019. That means a net total of roughly 212,000 tax filers moved from a forced-unionism state to a Right to Work state between 2018 and 2019.

The SOI division also calculates and makes public the aggregate adjusted gross incomes for tax filers as reported in the year immediately following their move from one state to another.

Personal income tax filers moving out of a forced-unionism state between 2018 and 2019 reported a total of $150.5 billion in income in 2019, or $85,609 per filer. Tax filers moving into a forced-unionism state reported a total of $119.2 billion in income, or $77,090 per filer.

Both because of their substantial taxpayer losses due to net domestic out-migration, and because the tax filers they gained reported $8,519 less income apiece than the tax filers they lost, forced-unionism states lost a total of $31.3 billion in adjusted gross income in 2019 – roughly 30% more than they lost in 2016.

Moreover, all of the nine states (California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Connecticut, and Massachusetts) suffering the worst losses of income, in absolute terms, due to taxpayer out-migration from 2018 to 2019 lack Right to Work laws.

Over the past four years for which SOI data are available, Big Labor-dominated states collectively lost a total of roughly $114 billion in adjusted gross income.  And the migration data furnished by the IRS pointing to a probable cumulative loss in excess of $230 billion from 2010 to 2020 do not convey how much taxpayers who flee forced-unionism states earn any later than the first year after they depart.

The actual financial cost endured by Big Labor-ruled states compounds as it recurs, year after year.

Stan Greer is senior research associate at the National Institute for Labor Relations Research. He is also editor of the National Right to Work Committee’s newsletter.

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