Right-to-Work is right for Ohio

Wisconsin became the nation’s 25th right-to-work state last month, joining our neighbors to the north and west that made similar moves in 2012. For the first time in decades, residents of these states can no longer be forced to join and pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.

While this debate is often mired in pro- and anti-union rhetoric, the real argument for right-to-work is entirely economic — and Ohio should get on board before we’re left behind.

Over the past decade, right-to-work states have consistently outperformed their non-right-to-work competitors in three key economic metrics: Job growth, wage growth and economic growth. From 2003 to 2013, right-to-work states grew their employment rolls at more than double the pace of non-right-to-work states — 9.5 percent compared with 4.2 percent— according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Those additional jobs aren’t low-paying, minimum-wage positions, either. They’re good-paying jobs that are the lifeblood of the middle class. During that same 10-year period, personal incomes in right-to-work states grew 12 percent more than those in non-right-to-work states.

Labor unions and their supporters counter these jobs and personal income gains by pointing to their higher overall wages. But such arguments ignore the vast disparities in the cost of living between the two types of states. Someone living in a union stronghold in the Northeast, Rust Belt and West Coast is going to pay far more for groceries, gas, and utility bills than someone living in the right-to-work South.

Once the cost-of-living disparities are taken into consideration, the story changes. According to a 2013 analysis by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, per capita personal incomes in right-to-work states were actually 4.1 percent higher.

With higher employment and personal income growth, it’s unsurprising that right-to-work states also enjoy stronger economies. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, from 2003 to 2013 the economies of right-to-work states grew 10 percent more than their non-right-to-work counterparts.

This isn’t a fluke. The disproportionate economic growth between the two types of states has been documented in every single 10-year period dating back to when Lyndon Johnson was president.

In other words, these data aren’t cherry-picked anomalies. They are instead evidence of the overwhelming economic benefits that arise from simply giving employees the freedom to choose whether they join a union.

Which begs the question: Why wouldn’t Ohio want to join the right-to-work wave now rolling through the Midwest? State lawmakers may be wary after voters overturned their public sector union reforms in 2011. While it’s understandable that they would approach the issue with caution, the costs of inaction will only compound over time.

This is especially true for our state’s steel industry, which currently supports 100,000 Buckeye jobs and has an economic impact totaling $7.2 billion per year. As the benefits of right-to-work continue accruing in our neighboring states of Michigan and Indiana, and now our regional competitor Wisconsin, many of our manufacturers will face increasing pressure to relocate within their borders. Making Ohio right-to-work could prevent our state’s job creators from setting out for better economic seas.

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence added further credence to this argument last year. Gov. Pence said that of the 120 companies that indicated they would relocate in Indiana due solely to its new right-to-work law, fully 82 of them have already taken steps in that direction.

Our state lawmakers and our governor should be pursuing policies that ensure businesses come to Ohio, too — and that’s exactly what right-to-work has proven capable of doing. Combined with the higher economic growth, faster job creation and personal income gains, right-to-work is a winner for all involved.

Baylor Myers is the Ohio state director of Americans for Prosperity.

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