Right to Work Creates Two Americas—One Is More Prosperous

by John Fund

“Half of U.S. Now Under Right to Work” was the headline in the socialist magazine In These Times this week, after Governor Scott Walker signed legislation making Wisconsin the nation’s 25th Right to Work (RTW) state, giving all employees the right to hold a job without having to join a union.

Walker’s action creates a symbolic division of the country into two halves: 49 percent of the population now lives in RTW states and 51 percent do not. The RTW states are concentrated in the South and Mountain West, but in the last three years Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin have created a solid Midwest beachhead for the movement. See the map here.

It’s clear which half of the country is prospering more. As an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this month pointed out:

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2003-13 states with such laws increased their employment rolls by 9.5%—nearly three percentage points more than the national average and more than double the growth in non-right-to-work states.

These weren’t average jobs, either. They were good-paying positions with increasing wages. Personal incomes in those states grew 12% more than in states without right-to-work protections during that same 10-year period, according to a 2014 study by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Unions point to the fact that the correlation isn’t universal, and there are economic losers under Right to Work — often highly-paid workers in uncompetitive industries. But the benefits of Right to Work for a state as a whole are clear, and the next goal of the National Right to Work Committee is to expand it to Eastern states such as West Virginia and New Hampshire. As In These Times gloomily noted: “It may be just the beginning of attacks on worker rights in many states this year, including roughly a dozen potential right-to-work initiatives.”

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