The Economic Freedom of Workers Enhances Prosperity

by Kevin Holtsberry

As NRO readers are aware, Ohio joined the critical debate surrounding public sector compensation last year by passing significant reform. Those hoping to finally address the out-of-control nature of the size and scope of state and local government, however, were cruelly disappointed to see massive spending by labor unions and their allies turn the debate into an emotional TV ad campaign about public safety.

In the aftermath of this heated debate, and the overwhelming loss of Issue 2 this past November, there are many who feel this is not a good time to be reengaging the public and policy makers on labor law reform.

We disagree. In fact, in light of the passage of a right-to-work law in Indiana this is not a conversation states like Ohio can avoid. The debate has been ignited in Michigan, Minnesota, and a number of other states seeking to break out of the economic stagnation so many have experienced.

Ohio simply can’t afford to take large-scale reform off the table, particularly reforms that have the potential to mean significant economic growth and opportunity for its citizens. Ohio must stop the outflow of jobs and people to the south and west. Right-to-work is an integral part of this debate.

Which is why the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions — Ohio’s lone free market think tank — is releasing Ohio Right-to-Work: How the Economic Freedom of Workers Enhances Prosperity — an informative and debate changing report on the high cost of denying workplace freedom.

#more#The reality is that Ohio has been falling farther and farther behind economically for decades. And by not embracing right-to-work we have seen jobs and companies move south and west depleting our human and financial resources. Here are some startling statistics from the report released today:

  • From 1977 to 2008 the inflation-adjusted personal income of Ohioans grew just over 35 percent compared to 55 percent for the nation as a whole.
  • Ohio had the third lowest rate of growth (as measured by personal income) during this period. Only Michigan and West Virginia saw lower growth in personal income.
  • During this period per capita income in Ohio fell from slightly over 1 percent higher than the national average to around 11percent below the national average.
  • From 2000 to 2009 368,203 residents left Ohio. That adds up to 109 people a day, seven days a week!
  • The report estimates that had Ohio passed a right-to-work law in 1977 the per capita income of a family of four in 2008 would be $9,400 higher annually (one model estimated as much as $12,000 higher).

In a time of budget stringency, governments often cannot afford to use financial resources to impact growth, but they can change the legal environment in which labor, the most important factor of production, operates.

It seems to us the time has come for Ohio to move towards positive consideration of a right-to-work law.

And we intend to start that debate — a debate based on the actual history of this issue and the sobering economic realities that underlie it, not on myths and misinformation.

The future of our communities — our children and grandchildren — depends on it.

Kevin Holtsberry is the president of the Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions in Columbus, Ohio.

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