Michigan has passed so-called right to work legislation today. There’s already been a lot written about how right-to-work states wind up with lower wages for workers, which doesn’t sound like a good thing for the economy unless you are in the right wing bubble. I’m more interested in seeing data on the other question–whether right-to-work laws are really of any benefit to a state in terms of bringing in new jobs. Governor Rick Snyder says this is the case, playing the role of ventriloquist’s doll to the Koch brothers. Think Progress says this is false:
“There is really no economic evidence showing “right-to-work” laws leading to more jobs or better outcomes for workers. This is seen plainly in analysis looking at the impact of such laws in Oklahoma, the only other state to adopt a right-to-work law in the past 25 years prior to Indiana doing so in 2011 and Michigan’s current legislative move. In fact, economists Sylvia Allegretto and Gordon Lafer of the University of California, Berkeley and University of Oregon, respectively, show that since Oklahoma’s law passed in 2001, manufacturing employment and business relocations to the state actually reversed their “pre-right-to-work” increases and began to fall—and this at a time when Oklahoma’s extractive industry economies were booming. To the contrary, these researchers show that right-to-work laws have failed to increase employment growth in the 22 states that have adopted them.”
Instead, right-to-work laws simply result in lower wages and fewer benefits for workers, union and non-union alike. In Michigan (and across the country), as unionization rates fall, so does middle-class income. President Obama yesterday blasted right-to-work as “giving you the right to work for less money.”
Unfortunately we can’t have a fully controlled experiment here since Michigan’s economy is recovering and new jobs might be come to Michigan regardless of the law. However, a drastic step such as adopting right-to-work laws, with their known detrimental effects, should show a clear increase in jobs coming to the state. Just something to keep in mind in two years when Snyder is up for reelection.
Incidentally, Greg Sargent describes one way in which this might be overturned.
Update: Conservatives have “right-to-work” the “death tax” “right to life” and other ways of renaming positions to affect public opinion. The mainstream media tries to make both sides sound equivalent. “Inheritance tax” and “pro-choice” sound like far more honest terms than those used by conservatives. Are there any liberal equivalents to the conservative renaming of viewpoints which I’m not thinking of? Does the lack of similar tactics by liberals mean that liberals are more honest or less skillful politically (or both)?