COMMENTARY: Celebrate the Right to Work


Congratulations and happy Labor Day! If you are reading this, chances are you are one of the millions of Americans living in one of 28 Right to Work states. You might not know it from Right to Work opponents’ rhetorical posturing, but Right to Work laws are simple and straightforward.

A Right to Work law ensures that no employee can be forced to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. This leaves the decision of union membership and financial support where it belongs; with each individual working person.

Right to Work should be embraced simply on the basis of protecting each worker’s freedom of association, but the advantages do not stop there. Enshrining workplace freedom also brings significant economic benefits to the 28 states that have passed Right to Work laws.

Right to Work states have enjoyed higher private-sector job growth one and a half times more thank in forced unionism states, according to data compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR).

NILRR data also shows larger wage increases over the past decade than their forced unionism counterparts. Not only that, but after adjusting for states’ differing costs of living, residents in Right to Work states annually enjoy more than $2,500 disposable income than their non-Right to Work neighbors.

The connection between Right to Work laws and better economic performance is not a surprise. Business experts consistently rank the presence of Right to Work laws as one of the most important factors companies consider when deciding where to expand or relocate their facilities where they will create new jobs.

For example, Kentucky passed its Right to Work Law in January 2017. Since then, the commonwealth has posted a bevy of economic development. In the commonwealth’s first fiscal quarter alone, Kentucky surpassed the previous year’s record of $5.1 billion economic investment with $5.8 billion invested already. This unprecedented growth is stimulated directly by the passage of their Right to Work law, which companies haves specifically cited when announcing their investment decisions.

Right to Work laws also encourage more flexible and responsive union officials in the workplace. Where workers cannot be forced to join or pay dues, union brass has to work harder to retain employee support. This encourages union officials to put workers’ interests first, rather than promoting their own power or pushing an agenda that is out of step with the rank-and-file.

Right to Work laws make economic sense, but protecting employee freedom has always been their most important feature. No worker should be forced to join or pay money to an organization he or she has no interest in supporting. Right to Work laws do nothing to impede employees from voluntarily joining or paying dues to a union; they simply ensure that no worker can be forced to hand over a portion of their hard-earned paycheck to union officials just to keep a job.

If you are still unsure where you stand on the Right to Work issue, ask yourself a simple question: Why should union officials not play by the same rules as every other private organization? A labor union that genuinely enjoys employee endorsement will continue to thrive with members’ voluntary support. A union that has alienated rank-and-file members or outlived its usefulness will need to adapt in order to survive.

Churches, civic associations and thousands of other private organizations thrive on voluntary association across the country. Despite the protests of union officials there is no reason a union — made up of individual workers who freely choose to band together — cannot do the same.

Workplace choice, employee freedom, and better economic performance are part and parcel of the Right to Work package. So what is not to like? This Labor Day, citizens of Right to Work states have much more to celebrate than a three day weekend.