The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Slow, Steady March of Right-to-Work Laws

The Slow, Steady March of Right-to-Work Laws

At what point do private sector unions become too weak for Democrats to fear crossing them anymore?

The union membership rate—the percent of wage and salary workers who were members of unions—was 10.7 percent in 2016, down 0.4 percentage point from 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions, at 14.6 million in 2016, declined by 240,000 from 2015. In 1983, the first year for which comparable union data are available, the union membership rate was 20.1 percent, and there were 17.7 million union workers…

Public-sector workers had a union membership rate (34.4 percent) more than five times higher than that of private-sector workers (6.4 percent).

On paper, Missouri became a right-to-work state last week, meaning you can no longer be forced to join a union and pay its dues as a condition of employment. But unions in the state have a shot at reversing the law:

Monday afternoon, Missouri AFL-CIO President Mike Louis and Missouri NAACP President Rod Chapel filed a petition for referendum with the secretary of state’s office. They have until Aug. 28 — the day the right-to-work measure is scheduled to go into effect — to collect enough signatures to place the law on the ballot. If they succeed, right to work won’t take effect until Missourians get the chance to have their say in 2018.

A “yes” vote would mean right to work becomes law, while a “no” means it doesn’t.

Citizens may call a referendum on a measure approved by the General Assembly and not vetoed by the governor as long as they collect signatures totaling 5 percent of the voters from two-thirds of the state’s congressional districts. That would appear to be roughly 90,000 signatures.

Although the referendum petition was regularly used in Missouri during the early 20th century, the last time it was used was 1982.

Collecting about 90,000 signatures in seven months is not that difficult. Of course, solid majorities in Missouri’s state legislature supported the law, and supporters seem convinced the public is on their side. In 2016, Republican governor Eric Greiten ran on support for the law and unions spent heavily to defeat him. He won, 51 percent to 45 percent. So unions could get that referendum on the ballot in 2018… but would that help Missouri Democrats that year, hurt them, or be a wash?

Meanwhile, up in New Hampshire, the state Senate passed a right-to-work bill and the state House is scheduled to vote on it in the House on February 16.

A lot of the argument about right-to-work laws revolves around whether it helps the state’s economy or not. Advocates and critics should probably keep in mind that being required or being free from joining a union is one of many factors in a state’s economy…

INSKEEP: So again, here’s the phrase. Our story from Kentucky said income and job growth have increased more quickly in right-to-work states since World War II. Is that true?

WESSEL: I did a quick check of the government data for the past 24 months, and it shows that employment grew by 4.6 percent in states with right-to-work laws and only 3.7 percent in states without those laws. Now, your report relied on a tally of government data done by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy – a conservative think tank in Michigan. And it found a 43 percent gain in total employment between 1990 and 2011 in right-to-work states versus 19 percent in other states. And it also found much faster growth in personal income in right-to-work states. But those correlations do not prove that right-to-work laws are the reason or even a reason that some states added more jobs than others. It’s really, really hard – maybe even impossible – to single out the effects of this just one law.

Having said all that, the doomsayers look pretty silly for insisting right-to-work destroys jobs and leads to economic ruin.  Michigan passed right-to-work in 2012, and its unemployment rate is at 5 percent.  Wisconsin adopted right-to-work in 2015, and its unemployment rate is at 4 percent. Then again, New Hampshire’s not yet a right-to-work state, and it has an astoundingly low unemployment rate of 2.6 percent.

The Better, Non-Hysterical Case Against Trump’s Immigration Executive Order

Any security component of an immigration policy is focused on a goal that’s simple to articulate but difficult to implement: Keep the threats out and let in the ones who represent no threat, like the 9-year-old Somali child with congenital heart disease, a 1-year-old Sudanese boy with cancer, or Somali boy with a severe intestinal disorder.

It’s not surprising that Democrats have responded to the president’s executive order by declaring it racist, xenophobic, a sign of an imminent fascist takeover, etcetera. They find everything to be racist, xenophobic and a sign of an imminent fascist takeover.

The fairer and more compelling argument, and one that might have a shot of persuading the Trump administration, is that this path doesn’t take you where you want to go. It keeps a lot of people who are no threat out, and may not be as thorough as we want when it comes to keeping out actual bad guys. Anyone who really wants to reverse this policy needs to stop citing the poem The New Colossus like it’s the U.S. Constitution and stop denouncing other people’s motives and focus on probable outcomes.

This assumes, of course, the goal of the executive order was not to create the impression both at home and abroad that President Trump was actually banning Muslims – “boob bait for Bubbas,” as Daniel Patrick Moynihan used to call it.   

I wrote on Twitter yesterday that I would trade the seven-nation visa ban for an extended review of any visitor of any nationality who’s traveled to Syria in past six years. One person on Twitter responded, “The Muslim ban is about decreasing the number of Muslims allowed into the USA. Your proposal would not do this. So, no.” Trump’s executive order isn’t really a Muslim ban, but apparently some of his supporters are happy to pretend to that it is, or they’re hoping that it is a first step towards an actual literal Muslim ban.

It’s pretty obvious that a major component of the Islamist threat in European countries comes from European-born Muslims who decide at some point that neither European culture nor “moderate” Islam provide them with a satisfying role in the world.

Most of the perpetrators of the Paris attacks were French nationals. One terrorism expert counted 516 Belgian-born Islamists in Iraq and Syria in 2015.  A mid-2015 report estimated that 1,200 French citizens had gone to fight for ISIS, 500 to 600 each from the U.K. and Germany, 800 to 1,500 Russians (!), 440 Belgians, 200 to 250 Dutch, 150 to 180 Swedes… you get the idea. There’s a pretty good chance that the next perpetrator of an attack on American soil will have a European passport.

If you did a blanket ban on any visas to anyone who has traveled to Syria in the past six years, you would end up blocking a bunch of non-terrorists – relief workers, war correspondents, Senator John McCain, Representative Tulsi Gabbard. However, there’s nothing wrong with subjecting anyone who’s traveled to Syria to extra scrutiny – and you can extend this to any ISIS or al-Qaeda hotbed.

This Summit Is Worth the Climb!

If you haven’t checked out the 2017 National Review Ideas Summit, do so now.

This conference is March 16 and 17 at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C. and will “bring together today’s most influential thinkers and strengthening the conservative movement William F. Buckley Jr. helped establish.” Speakers and panelists include J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy; Edward Conard, author of The Upside of Inequality and Unintended Consequences: Why Everything You’ve Been Told About the Economy Is Wrong; Charles C.W. Cooke, Veronique de Rugy, Kristie de Peña, David French, Daniel Hannan, Mollie Hemingway, Mark Krikorian, Andrew Klavan, Larry Kudlow, Dr. Charles Krauthammer, Kathryn Jean Lopez, Rich Lowry, Heather Mac Donald, Andrew C. McCarthy, Jay Nordlinger, John O’Sullivan, Ramesh Ponnuru, Reihan Salam, and Kevin D. Williamson. Whew! Plus there’s always a slew of conservative lawmakers, whose appearances are always up in the air depending upon the House and Senate floor vote schedules.

ADDENDA: Charlie Cooke finds New Jersey Senator Cory Booker singing the praises of school choice while giving the 2012 keynote address at the meeting of the American Federation for Children. The chairman of the group at that time was… Betsy DeVos.

Booker denounced her yesterday, because he is the most shameless of partisan hacks.