Today many supporters and practically all opponents of Right to Work laws focus on the question of whether or not such statutes and constitutional amendments lead to higher incomes and more job creation. But the original rationale for Right to Work laws was different. As I recently recalled in a National Institute for Labor Relations Research fact sheet, when Texas journalist William Ruggles first proposed Right to Work legislation in 1941, he did not mention economics at all:
Ruggles’s . . . goal was to promote “open shops” in which “the union man has his organization and bargains with it as he pleases” and in which the “non-union man has his rights, free of coercion to join an organization he does not want.”
Because I believe Ruggles had it right, I don’t see that there is any need for Right to Work supporters to prove conclusively that the strong positive correlation between the 24 state laws now on the books prohibiting forced union dues and fees and faster income, population, and job growth stems from the fact that the former causes the latter.
Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that a growing body of research suggests Right to Work laws are not merely correlated with greater economic well-being, but also promote it.
A new study issued by Michigan’s Mackinac Center for Public Policy this past week (see the link above) reaches that conclusion after attempting to gauge the impact of Right to Work laws by controlling for other independent influences on economic growth.
This is how Ball State University economist Michael Hicks (up to now a skeptic about the economic impact of Right to Work laws) and Mackinac researcher Michael LaFaive sum up their findings:
These results suggest that right-to-work laws have a positive and sometimes very positive impact on the economic well-being of states and their residents. Indeed, the study’s findings show that right-to-work laws, on average, cause a one-time, permanent increase in the rate of economic growth in states.