Least Affordable States All Permit Forced Dues

Graph that shows the top 14 least affordable states by showing the value of $1,000 in each state - all are compulsory unionism states
On average, forced-unionism states are 24.7% more expensive to live in than Right to Work states. And forced-dues states’ cost-of-living disadvantage has widened over the past decade.

Research Shows Right to Work Laws Reduce Inflationary Pressures

A few weeks ago, the Jefferson City-based Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC), a state government agency, published its latest update of comparative state cost-of-living indices, covering 2022 as a whole.

As MERIC explains on its website, it “derives the [cost-of-living] index for each state by averaging the indices of participating cities and metropolitan areas in that state.”

The city/metropolitan area indices are derived from an ongoing nationwide survey conducted by the nonpartisan, Arlington, Va.-based Council for Community and Economic Research. 

Ten of the 11 Lowest Cost-of-Living States Protect the Right to Work

The MERIC indices released early this year estimate the average annual cost of living for all 50 states, as well as for the District of Columbia.

The National Institute for Labor Relations Research has now used these data to calculate average 2022 costs of -living for Right to Work states and forced-unionism states.

Twenty-seven states have already adopted and implemented Right to Work laws protecting employees from federal labor law provisions authorizing forced union dues and fees as a job condition.

The 27 Right to Work states combined had a population-weighted cost of living 5.2% below the national average in 2022.

The 23 forced-unionism states combined had a population-weighted cost of living 18.8% above the national average.

Consequently, as a group, forced-dues states are nearly 25% more expensive to live in than Right to Work states. (MERIC itself does not weigh states based on population size in calculating its indices. For that reason, the national average of population-weighted states does not equal 100.)

The correlation between forced-unionism status and a higher cost of living is robust.

Not one of the 14 highest-cost states in 2022 has a Right to Work law. But 10 of the 11 lowest cost-of-living states protect employees’ Right to Work.

John Kalb, vice president of the National Right to Work Committee, commented:

“There is a compelling case to be made that compulsory unionism fosters a higher cost of living.

“Union officials wielding forced-dues privileges funnel a large share of the conscripted money they reap into efforts to elect and reelect politicians who favor higher taxes and heavier regulation of business.

“And many economists credibly argue that excessive government regulation is a major factor behind high housing, energy and other costs in forced-unionism states like California, Oregon, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut.

“Moreover decades of academic research by economists such as Thomas M. Carroll and Richard J. Cebula have shown that one side benefit of Right to Work laws is that they help reduce the cost of living in jurisdictions where they are in effect.”

Employees Care Most About What Their Paychecks Can Buy

Mr. Kalb continued:

“While forced-dues states’ cost-of-living disadvantage goes back decades, a review of MERIC’s indices from past years shows it is generally getting wider. In 2012, for example, forced-unionism states’ aggregate cost-of-living disadvantage was 21.4%, compared to 24.7% last year.

“And there is no getting around the economic significance of the strong correlation between forced unionism and higher costs.

“What matters most to employees seeking better lives for themselves and their families, and employers seeking to attract and retain good employees, is not nominal wages and salaries.

“It is what those wages and salaries can buy in the location where the employees and their families live.

“That’s why honest efforts to make comparisons of annual wages and salaries and other types of income in Right to Work states versus forced-unionism states must always be informed by MERIC’s or some other nonpartisan comparative cost-of-living index.

“For example, in 2021, the average real, disposable income per capita in Right to Work states was more than $3,500 higher than in forced-unionism states, using MERIC’s indices to adjust U.S.

Commerce Department data for regional cost-of-living disparities.

“America’s breadwinners clearly recognize they and their families are better off in Right to Work states. That’s why recent Census data show forced-dues states are on track to lose an additional net two million people in their peak-earning years, that is, aged 35-54, from 2020 to 2030.”

Mr. Kalb commended the Institute for its tenacious efforts to document the facts regarding Right to Work states, forced-unionism states, and real, spendable income.

This article was originally published in our monthly newsletter. Go here to access previous newsletter posts.

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