AFL-CIO-Backed Study Rebuts Forced-Unionism Apologists

On Wednesday this week, the U.S. House’s Education and the Workforce Committee held a hearing to document the ongoing “assault on Right to Work” that is being perpetrated by President Barack Obama’s radical appointees to the National Labor Relations Board.  Three witnesses spoke out against compulsory unionism:  Gov. Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), Walter Hewitt, an employee of United Way of Southeastern Connecticut, and Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee.

Mr. Mix and pro-Right to Work members of the panel emphasized the fact that, in comparing economic conditions in Right to Work and forced-unionism states, it is very important to account adequately for regional cost-of-living differences.  As I showed in a post late this winter for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research web site, data from the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), a state governmental agency, show that in 2014 the aggregate cost of housing, food, health care, transportation and other necessities was on average 22% higher in the 26 forced-unionism states than in the 24 Right to Work states.  (Wisconsin did not become the 25th Right to Work state until this year.)

Meanwhile, the two anti-Right to Work witnesses at the hearing, Elise Gould of the Economic Policy Institute and Robert Bruno of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, tacitly contended that the average cost-of-living difference between Right to Work states and forced-unionism states is far smaller than what the MERIC indices show.

Unfortunately for Gould and Bruno and other Big Labor-“friendly” academics, the AFL-CIO hierarchy itself has no problem acknowledging that the cost of living gap between forced-unionism stronghold states like California, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts and Right to Work states like Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Georgia is wide indeed.  They often have done so, in fact, when the context wasn’t a debate over whether union officials’ legal power to corral workers into unions should be taken away.

The latest example is a blog post appearing on the AFL-CIO Now web site on Wednesday highlighting the findings of the latest update of an annual study conducted by the National Low Income Housing Coalition.  The NLIHC is a Big Labor-friendly think tank that gets financial support from the AFL-CIO hierarchy and even invited AFL-CIO Vice President Arlene Holt Baker to address its 2012 convention.  (See the link below to read the entire NLIHC study.)

Of course, the point of the NLIHC analysis is not to show that living standards are higher in Right to Work states. Rather, the analysis shows, in the words of AFL-CIO Now blogger Kenneth Quinnell, “how many hours” a minimum-wage employee in each of the 50 states would have to work, on average, “in order to be able to afford a one-bedroom apartment that would cost 30%” of his or her income. The chart below summarizes the NLIHC’s findings for 2015.

The chart shows that, even though a disproportionately large share of forced-unionism states have adopted statewide statutes mandating a nominal minimum wage that is higher than the national minimum, employees who make no more than what their employer is legally required to pay are on average far worse off in forced-unionism states.

Specifically, 10 of the 11 states where, according to the NLIHC, rental housing is least affordable for minimum-wage earners lack Right to Work laws. But 11 of the 17 states where rental housing is most affordable for minimum-wage earners are Right to Work states.

It is especially telling to compare forced-unionism California and Right to Work Texas in light of the 2015 edition of the NLIHC study.  In California, a minimum-wage earner would have to work 26% more hours to be able to afford a single-bedroom apartment than his or her counterpart in Texas.  Yet California’s nominal state-mandated minimum of $9.00 an hour is 24% higher than Texas’s federally-set minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

Clearly, $7.25 in Right to Work Texas buys a lot more housing than $9.00 does in forced-unionism California.  Given that Right to Work states dominate the ranks of the lowest-cost states in the country, and forced-unionism states dominate the ranks of the highest-cost states, it’s easy to understand why real living standards for people at all income levels are higher in jurisdictions where unionism is voluntary.

According to data collected and published by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, 10 of the 11 states with the least affordable rental housing for minimum-wage earners lack Right to Work laws. Image: NLIHC

NLIHC Releases Out of Reach 2015: National Low Income …