A blow against right-to-work laws

While all commentariat eyes rested on OH-12, Missouri voters gave a proposed “right-to-work” law — the most Orwellian term in modern political jargon — a deep burial. What might have happened if instead of a 2 to 1 victory Missourians had experienced the reverse? Alexia Fernández Campbell has numbers:

Economists have been closely studying the economic impact, and none have found any evidence to back up the claim that right-to-work laws boost the economy. At best, the laws slightly increase the number of businesses in the state, but they don’t really benefit workers. At worst, these laws lower average wages for all workers after they are passed. The latter is the most likely outcome, based on the research.

One study conducted by economist Lonnie Stevans at Hofstra University in 2007 found that right-to-work laws did lead to an increase in the number of businesses, but those economic gains mostly went to business owners. Meanwhile, average wages for workers went down.

One 2015 study showed that Oklahoma’s right-to-work law didn’t lead to more jobs, but it also didn’t seem to affect wages.

The Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank, attributes right-to-work laws to a 3.1 percent decline in wages for union and nonunion workers after accounting for differences in cost of living, demographics, and labor market characteristics.

Had voters in Missouri approved Proposition A, they would probably see a similar drop in income, according to economists at the University of Missouri Kansas City. In a 2014 study, they concluded that Missouri’s shifting to a right-to-work state would result in an annual loss of $1,945 to $2,547 per household.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that anti-union laws would hurt middle-class families. The decline of labor unions is largely responsible for the growing income inequality in the United States.

What this triumph represents in the seventy-year battle to emasculate Taft-Hartley I’ll leave for experts. I’ve never had a job in which I’ve qualified to join a union, and for many years, thanks to an anti-union upbringing and my own solipsism I would’ve bristled at the thought of joining one. As wages decline and the middle class shrinks, I wonder, how bad can a union be?

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