Commentary

Union Officials Desperate to Disprove ‘Right to Work’ Success

Stan Greer
By Stan Greer | March 17, 2015 | 2:37 PM EDT

Mary Will, left, with Local 68, and Corey Smith, right, with Local 113, chant 'Union Strong' during a rally inside the Wisconsin State Capitol as the state Assembly debates the right-to-work bill in Madison, Wis., Thursday, March 5, 2015. (AP Photo/Wisconsin State Journal, Amber Arnold)

On March 10, just one day after Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a measure making Wisconsin America’s 25th Right to Work state, AFL-CIO, steelworkers, and machinists union bosses filed a suit in the Dane County Circuit to prevent the new statute from taking effect and ultimately to overturn it.

But Big Labor’s prospects for persuading either the state or the federal court system to reverse the decision of Wisconsin’s elected officials and reinstate forced union dues and fees as a condition of employment are far from stellar. As pro-union monopoly Marquette University law professor Paul Secunda recently admitted, Right to Work laws “have existed for over 60 years.” He added: “You can file all the lawsuits you want but the presumption is going to be that the law is going to be good.”

At a minimum, union officials are desperate to deter additional states from following in the footsteps of Wisconsin and the two other Midwestern states that have enacted Right to Work laws since early 2012, Indiana and Michigan. Hence the propaganda campaign being waged now by Big Labor and its academic allies.

Compulsory-unionism apologists’ target du jour is Oklahoma, where the individual employee’s free choice to join and support a union financially, or refuse to do either, has been protected since September 2001.

Oklahoma has flourished economically since its Right to Work constitutional amendment took effect more than a decade ago. Of course, citizens’ primary aim in pushing for passage of this and every other Right to Work law on the books today was to end a gross imbalance in public policy. In states without Right to Work, the law protects each employee’s right to join and support a union financially, but at the same time authorizes the firing of employees if they refuse to support a union financially. Right to Work laws make union dues and fee payments purely voluntary.

Since Oklahoma became Right to Work, private-sector employee compensation (including wages, salaries, bonuses, and the cash value of benefits) in the state has increased far more rapidly than in the nation as a whole.

From 2001 to 2013, inflation-adjusted U.S. Commerce Department data show private nonfarm compensation in Oklahoma grew by 24.5 percent or more than two-and-a-half times as much as the national average. And Oklahoma’s real private-sector compensation gain was more than triple the aggregate percentage increase for the Sooner State’s three non-Right to Work neighbors (New Mexico, Colorado and Missouri).

This marks a sharp contrast from Oklahoma’s economic record in the dozen years before its Right to Work law took effect. From 1989 to 2001, real private-sector compensation in Oklahoma grew 12 percent more slowly than the national average and 21 percent more slowly than the average for its forced-unionism neighbor states.

A March 12 commentary written by Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the forced union dues-funded Economic Policy Institute, and appearing in the Charleston (W.Va.) “Daily Mail” didn’t even bother to review the evidence on overall business employment and compensation growth, and instead claimed that the Oklahoma Right to Work law had “failed in every respect” to stimulate the state economy.

There are several factors driving Oklahoma’s economic progress since 2001.  One of them surely is the Right to Work law adopted that year. Forced-unionism apologists like Eisenbrey owe it to the public at least to acknowledge the Sooner State has been benefiting from out-sized growth before they seek to attribute it all to some other cause or causes.

Otherwise, they risk having even less credibility than Hugo Z. Hackenbush, the veterinarian masquerading as a doctor portrayed by Groucho Marx in “A Day at the Races.” In a song that didn’t make the movie’s final cut, but has nevertheless achieved immortality, Hackenbush defensively noted, regarding his patients, “No matter what I treat them for/They die of something else.”

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


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