Americans will skip work Monday to celebrate what really should be called Leisure Day. But this Labor Day, an estimated 7.2 million privately employed Americans (and even more public-sector workers) could relax more thoroughly if they were not compelled to join labor unions and/or pay union dues as job requirements. That’s why the time is now for the National Right to Work Act.
Congressman Joe Wilson and Senator Jim DeMint, both South Carolina Republicans, have sponsored legislation to restore a woman’s right to choose whether or not to join a union and a man’s right to choose whether or not to pay union dues.
“The National Right to Work Act simply erases the forced-dues clauses in the  National Labor Relations Act and  Railway Labor Act without adding a single letter to federal law,” Wilson told House colleagues as he introduced his measure last January. “Passage of this bill would return to working Americans the freedom of choice that never should have been stripped from them in the first place. Furthermore, passage of the National Right to Work Act would dramatically increase both the freedom and the prosperity of all Americans.” Wilson’s bill features 83 House co-sponsors.
Beyond the boost in individual liberty that Wilson and DeMint advocate, abundant evidence demonstrates that America’s 22 right-to-work (RTW) states significantly outperform the overall U.S. economy, while forced-unionism states trail both.
For instance, the National Institute for Labor Relations Research found that between 1982 and 2004, manufacturing establishments expanded 4.5 percent in RTW states. While they shrank 5.3 percent nationwide, they shriveled in forced-unionism states: down 9.3 percent.
From 1995 to 2005, private, non-farm employment advanced 20.2 percent in RTW states, ahead of the 14.5 percent national average and 11.3 percent hike in forced-unionism states.
RTW states saw $50,571 average, real household income in metropolitan areas in 2002. That year, the $48,310 U.S. figure trumped its $46,431 counterpart in Big Labor states.
In 2004, 71 percent of households in RTW states owned their homes, versus 69 percent across the USA, and 68 percent in mandatory-unionism states.
RTW residents more broadly enjoy medical coverage. Between 1995 and 2005, the Census Bureau reports, the number of individuals carrying private health insurance climbed 11.9 percent in those states. The 7 percent national average once again outstripped the 4.4 percent increase in compulsory-unionism states. Meanwhile, the number of children with private insurance rose 9.3 percent in RTW states and 2.9 percent, on average, across America. But in forced-union states, the number of boys and girls with private coverage actually slipped 0.5 percent.
So, do RTW laws catalyze greater prosperity, or are RTW states the kinds of jurisdictions that cut taxes, deregulate, preserve property rights, and otherwise encourage capitalism? More pastorally, are RTW laws the animal feed that fattens the chickens, or are they the roosters that believe their crowing summons the sunrise?
“States with Right to Work laws tend strongly to have other pro-growth policies,” says Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee. “But Right to Work laws themselves play a very important role in fostering a good climate, both for enacting other pro-growth policies in the first place and for maintaining them in the face of strong opposition from Big Labor.”
Mix adds that in non-RTW states, “union campaign operatives use a huge chunk of the forced dues they grab to elect politicians who are beholden to Big Labor’s agenda of higher taxes, more government spending, and straightjacket regulation of business.”
Conversely, Mix maintains, union bosses in RTW states lack access to compulsory dues, thus limiting their spending and activity to promote statist politicians and policies.
Nevertheless, and especially on this holiday, Big Labor still sings the praises of unionism.
“More than 97 percent of union workers have jobs that provide health insurance benefits, but only 85 percent of nonunion workers do,” the AFL-CIO crows. “Unions help employers create a more stable, productive workforce –where workers have a say in improving their jobs.”
These are appealing arguments. Union bosses should have enough faith in themselves and what Big Labor offers that they can attract U.S. employees through persuasion rather than coercion.
That is all the National Right to Work Act asks.
© 2007, Scripps Howard News Service