Why Young Adults Are Fleeing Forced-Unionism States

By Stan Greer | July 27, 2018 | 3:28pm EDT
Right to Work states map (Screenshot)

Few people would deny that, as a rule, parents want what is best for their children and keep their children’s needs, including their material needs, in mind when they make important decisions for their families.

If this eminently plausible supposition is correct, then there is clear evidence that government-authorized forced unionism makes it more difficult for parents to provide their children with a comfortable standard of living and good prospects for the future.

At this time, 22 states have yet to adopt Right to Work laws protecting employees from being forced to pay dues or fees to an unwanted union simply in order to keep their jobs. And U.S. Census Bureau data show that, for many years, families with school-aged children have been fleeing these Big Labor stronghold states in droves.

Over just the past 10 years, for example, the total number of K-12 school-aged children (5-17 years old) in the 22 forced-unionism states fell from 25.66 million to 24.91 million.  That’s a decline of roughly 750,000, or 2.9 percent.

Nationally, despite a decline in births since the Great Recession, the number of school-aged children has actually risen by nearly 540,000, or 1.0 percent, over the past 10 years.  It’s common sense, then,  that the number of children is falling in the vast majority of forced-unionism states because new parents and young adults who hope to be parents soon recognize that job opportunities and cost of living-adjusted incomes are significantly higher in states where unionism is voluntary.

As of last year, there were roughly a million fewer 5-17 year-olds in forced-unionism states than there would have been had this school-aged population simply grown at the same slow rate after 2007 in these states as it did nationally.

In absolute terms, among the 44 states that did not change their laws regarding compulsory unionism between 2007 to 2017, the seven states suffering the greatest absolute declines in school-aged residents are New York (-227,000), Illinois (-183,900), California (-135,400), Ohio (-108,600), Pennsylvania (-101,400), New Jersey (-49,700) and Connecticut (-48,500) – all states that lack Right to Work laws.


Would young adults be fleeing forced-unionism New York, Illinois, California, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Connecticut in droves and relocating, by and large, in Right to Work states if, by doing so, they were making their current and/or future children worse off?

It just isn’t plausible.  But that’s exactly what the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute, a self-styled “think tank” launched in 1987 primarily with money derived from forced-dues stocked union treasuries is trying desperately to convince Missouri citizens is the case. 


The EPI, whose current president previously served as deputy chief of staff for national AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, is furnishing the intellectual fodder for a lavishly funded Big Labor campaign intended to scare Show-Me State voters into casting ballots against Proposition A on August 7.

Unless Proposition A is supported by a majority of the Missourians who vote on this measure, the state’s 18 month-old Right to Work statute, which was duly passed by legislators and signed into law in February 2017, will be wiped off the books.

Union bosses and their academic enablers at the EPI claim that somehow sustaining Big Labor’s forced-unionism privileges will raise incomes in Missouri.  But such contentions are refuted not just by the vast numbers of families voting with their feet in favor of Right to Work, but also by the financial numbers.

When fully adjusted for interstate differences in the cost of living with the help of an index calculated by a neutral government agency located in Missouri, U.S. Commerce Department data show that, on average, per capita disposable income was roughly $2,200 higher in Right to Work states than in forced-unionism states in 2017.

As economist James Sherk, formerly with the Heritage Foundation and now with the U.S. Labor Department, has demonstrated, the EPI model for comparing incomes in Right to Work and forced-unionism states only partially adjusts for regional cost-of-living differences.  That’s how Big Labor allies get the results they prefer.

But you don’t need to have gone to grad school to understand that EPI propaganda about the economic impact of Right to Work laws is wrong.  Anyone can understand that, if forced unionism were really a boon for American families, more families would be happy to stay in forced-unionism states.

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


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