Two Newest Right to Work States Enjoy Out-Sized Gains in Manufacturing Employment

Last week, voters in Indiana and Michigan, which respectively adopted the 24th and 25th state Right to Work laws in 2012, rewarded elected officials and candidates who are responsible for having enacted these measures and/or have gone on the record in favor of keeping them on the books.

In Indiana, where there was no gubernatorial election, Right to Work supporters expanded their majorities in both chambers of the Hoosier Legislature.  In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder, who had signed two bills protecting private-sector and most public-sector employees from forced union dues in December 2012, was reelected relatively easily, despite Big Labor’s intense, well-funded opposition.  And Right to Work supporters also picked up seats in both the state House and Senate.

Like grass-roots activists who have successfully lobbied their elected officials to pass Right to Work laws in other states, the Indiana and Michigan citizens, including many members of the National Right to Work Committee, who are responsible for getting the most recent bans on forced union dues and fees put on the books were motivated primarily by moral considerations.  In short, first and foremost, they regard forcing any worker to bankroll an unwanted union just to get or keep a job as just plain wrong.

However, many of the Hoosiers and Michiganians who pressed their politicians to pass Right to Work laws also believed their states would benefit economically by rolling back Big Labor’s special privileges.  And more and more data are now coming out that indicate Right to Work is indeed furnishing much needed boosts for employees and businesses in the two Midwestern states.

One compelling example pertains to manufacturing employment.  While the total number of factory jobs in the U.S. as a whole has rebounded only modestly since payrolls bottomed out in 2010, Right to Work states as a group have enjoyed out-sized gains.  And Indiana’s record since its Right to Work look took effect in March 2012 is extraordinary.  From that month through September 2014 (the latest month for which state jobs data are available), factory payroll employment grew by 8.5% in Indiana, by 3.4% in Right to Work states as a group, and by just 0.5% in forced-unionism states as a group.  Indiana’s manufacturing job percentage gain was the third greatest of any state’s, and more than double that of any of the remaining forced-unionism states in the Midwest.

The above data exclude Michigan, since its Right to Work law did not take effect until March 2013.  But its record over the past year and a half is also impressive.  From March 2013 through September 2014, Michigan’s payroll manufacturing job gain of 3.2% was the 10th greatest in the nation.  Overall, during that period, Right to Work states had a factory job increase of 2.2%, and forced-unionism states had an increase of just 0.3%.  In the Midwest alone, Michigan had a greater percentage manufacturing job gain than that of any forced-unionism state.

As a recent analysis by business reporter Jim Harger noted (see the link below), Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan’s two largest cities, “are beginning to shed their ‘rust belt’ reputation for a shinier, high-tech image that emphasizes their growth in advanced manufacturing and engineering jobs.”  And the evidence strongly indicates the state’s popular Right to Work law is playing a major role in helping Michigan transform itself.

While nationwide manufacturing employment has rebounded only modestly since its trough in early 2010, certain states have experienced much stronger job growth in the sector. And Indiana and Michigan, respectively America’s 23rd and 24th Right to Work states, have both experienced out-sized gains in factory employment since they prohibited forced union dues and fees.  Image:  The Motley Fool web site

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