Late last week, Tennessee news outlets such as the Chattanooga-based web service Nooga.com (see the first link above) reported on a new analysis issued by the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution (second link) regarding the Volunteer State’s remarkably successful automotive industry.
In one important regard, the Brookings analysis is seriously deficient: It fails even to consider to what extent Tennessee’s longstanding Right to Work law is responsible for creating a favorable climate for job creation, generally and in the manufacturing sector in particular.
Despite this significant shortcoming, the analysis vividly documents just how far the Volunteer State has come since the Nissan plant in Smyrna produced its first car in 1983.
According to Brookings, at the end of last year the automotive industry in Right to Work Tennessee employed 48,500 workers. Over the course of 2012 alone, the industry contributed $2.8 billion in compensation to Tennesseans, for an average of $57,000 in disbursements per worker.
As the chart copied here (appearing on page eight of the analysis) indicates, the share of total North American motor-vehicle manufacturing employment in Tennessee and other southern Right to Work states such as Alabama, South Carolina, Mississippi and Georgia has increased since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) took effect in 1994, despite the predictions of union officials and other NAFTA foes that the deal would quickly transfer all U.S. and Canadian auto and truck manufacturing to Mexico.
At the same time, Big Labor-dominated motor-vehicle assembly and parts plants in states like Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin and Illinois and in Canada have seen their share of North American employment in the sector plummet. (In 2012, two Midwestern forced-unionism states, Indiana and Michigan, switched over to Right to Work. It is a safe bet that this policy change will be a major positive as these states seek to attract and retain manufacturing jobs in the future.)
Right to Work Tennessee’s employment growth in motor-vehicle manufacturing has been especially strong relative to the national average in the past few years. Brookings reports that from 2010 to 2012 automotive employment increased by an average of 4.4% a year.
While the past is no guarantee of future success, Tennesseans should nevertheless be able to take pride in the fact that the Volunteer State today “finds itself home to a larger share of the continent’s automotive jobs than ever before . . . .”
In light of the fact that union-free auto assembly and parts factories in Right to Work states like Tennessee have been far more successful in creating and retaining jobs for decades than have their United Auto Workers (UAW) union boss-controlled counterparts in forced-unionism states, mounting employee opposition to a current UAW-boss drive to secure monopoly-bargaining privileges at the Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga is easy to understand.
Attorneys for the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation are assisting hundreds of independent-minded employees who have made it plain they don’t want to be corralled into the UAW to exercise their legal power to prevent this from happening to the fullest extent possible.