Big Labor Politicians in Forced-Dues States Double Down on Economic Failure

The shrinking number of states where compulsory union dues as a job condition are still permitted have endured many economic setbacks relative to Right to Work states, now totaling 27, over the decades.

But the employment picture has been especially dark for forced-dues states in the two years since businesses across the country were first hammered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and by governmental efforts at the federal, state, and local levels to contain its spread.

Though job opportunities have long been expanding far more rapidly in Right to Work states, as of February 2020, the last pre-COVID-19 month in our country, total employment in the 23 remaining forced-dues states exceeded Right to Work states’ aggregate employment, albeit by less than 0.5%.  (The source for these employment statistics and those that follow is the U.S. Labor Department’s household survey, seasonally adjusted.)

Data for December 2021, released at the end of this January, tell a completely different story.  By the end of last year, there were 77.90 million employed people in Right to Work states, compared to just 76.03 million in forced-dues states.  That’s a Right to Work advantage of nearly 1.9 million.

Ten Right to Work states already have higher employment than they did pre-COVID-19, and the combined employment for all 27 Right to Work states combined is now just 0.7% below its February 2020 level.  The total distance forced-dues states have to go to get back to where they were before COVID-19 hit is 4.7 times as great!

The poor job markets in the vast majority of forced-dues states are cutting into their tax bases and their long-term financial viability.  From July 1, 2020, through July 1, 2021, a net total of nearly 842,000 people moved out of the three largest-population states without Right to Work protections, California, New York, and Illinois.  Favorite destinations for out-migrants included Right to Work Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and South Carolina.  And according to this year’s annual review of interstate moves by U-Haul, California’s loss would have been even greater but for the fact that the legendary moving company “simply ran out of inventory to meet [California] customer demand for outbound equipment.”

In view of the severity of their losses, and their darkening future prospects, one might expect politicians in states like California, New York, and Illinois at least to consider publicly curtailing union bosses’ monopoly privileges.

After all, as eminent economist and American Enterprise Institute visiting scholar Jeffrey Eisenach notes, “There is a large body of rigorous economic research on the effects of [Right to Work] laws on economic performance.  Overall, that research suggests that [Right to Work] laws have a positive impact on economic growth, employment, investment, and innovation, both directly and indirectly.”

But so far, instead of debating a change of course, union-label politicians in California, New York, and Illinois are responding to abysmal economic news by doing even more to garner Big Labor’s favor.

In the Golden State, pro-forced unionism politicians in the Assembly recently did the bidding of National Nurses United (NNU) bosses by introducing a $163 billion annual tax hike as part of a Sacramento scheme to institute socialized medicine.  According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Foundation, the tax increases on individuals and businesses in this proposal would nearly double the state’s already-high tax burden, raising it by roughly $12,250 per household.

In the Empire State, Big Labor Gov. Kathy Hochul unveiled a mammoth $216 billion budget plan featuring a record $31.3 billion in aid to union boss-dominated K-12 schools, with few strings attached.  Hochul and her cohorts in Albany appear not to care that government schools in New York are already shelling out more than $30,000 per schoolkid for a system where two-thirds or more of eighth graders can’t read or do math at their grade level.

And in Illinois, state lawmakers are pushing ahead with legislation that could increase the already-enormous unfunded liabilities of Chicago’s police pension funds by a total of $3 billion through 2055.

Eventually, chronically poor job creation and relentless taxpayer out-migration will leave politicians in Big Labor strongholds like California, New York, and Illinois with no choice but to roll back Big Labor’s special privileges.  But in view of this year’s legislative activity ordinary employees and employers in such states should expect things to get worse before they get better. 

If you have questions about whether union officials are violating your rights, contact the Foundation for free help. To take action by supporting The National Right to Work Committee and fueling the fight against Forced Unionism, click here to donate now.

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