Right to Work States’ Magneticism

Forced-unionism apologist Mark Fernald tacitly acknowledges that New Hampshire’s workforce growth is far too slow. But he ignores U.S. Census Bureau data indicating a Right to Work law would help the Granite State attract and retain talented employees. Image: Cheryl Senter/Boston Globe

Union-Label Lobbyist Mark Fernald Is Wrong: Right to Work States Do Attract Workers

Former state Sen. Mark Fernald has made a career out of bitterly opposing the Right to Work movement: first as a union-dues backed politician, then as a lobbyist. It’s unsurprising that he is now raising his voice against S.B.11, a Senate-passed Right to Work measure scheduled to come to the floor of the New Hampshire House of Representatives on February 16.

What came near the end of a pro-compulsory unionism screed appearing in the Concord Monitor on January 29th was somewhat surprising. Fernald acknowledged that the painfully slow growth in New Hampshire’s workforce is a serious problem. “The economic challenge we face is a lack of workers,” wrote Fernald.

The Granite State’s employee deficit is due both to its failure to keep its own working-age residents from fleeing the state and its failure to persuade working-age people from other states to move in.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, as the nationwide population of people in their peak-earning years (aged 35-54) fell by 3.0% from 2005 to 2015, New Hampshire’s peak-earning year population declined 15.2% over the same period; or, more than five times as severe as the national average. (See the two links below for additional information.)

The obvious explanation for the Census Bureau data is that breadwinners, along with their families, are moving in droves out of New Hampshire. When the state’s high cost of living is factored in, New Hampshire’s average worker compensation is well below the national average. Working men and women who get an opportunity to move out of state routinely conclude they can provide better for their families elsewhere.

New Hampshire is an extreme case, but its problem is typical of states that lack Right to Work protections for employees. From 2005 to 2015, the total population of people in their peak-earning years for the 25 states that still lacked Right to Work protections in 2015 fell from 46.77 million to 43.88 million. That represents a decline of roughly 2.9 million, or 6.2%. (Since early 2016, West Virginia and Kentucky have gone Right to Work, and today Right to Work legislation sits on the desk of Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, who has pledged to sign it.)

Meanwhile, the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books for the entire decade from 2005 to 2015 saw their aggregate peak earning-year population grow from 32.96 million to 33.98 million, or 3.1%.

The negative correlation between forced-unionism status and peak earning-year population growth is quite robust. Among the 47 states that were either Right to Work or forced-unionism for the whole period between 2005 and 2015, the 10 states experiencing the most severe peak earning-year population losses in percentage terms (Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and West Virginia) were all forced-unionism at the time.

Meanwhile, among the 10 top-ranking states for peak earning-year population growth since 2005, nine (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah) have longstanding Right to Work laws. The sole exception is Colorado, and even the Centennial State prohibits forced union dues and fees in the public sector.

Millions and millions of working men and women have concluded they can provide better for their families in Right to Work states than in forced-unionism states.  Consequently, contrary to Fernald’s claim, Right to Work supporters have sound reason to believe that prohibiting forced union dues and fees will help New Hampshire retain its current working-age residents and attract new ones.

2015 Population Estimates – American FactFinder – U.S. Census Bureau

21 – Resident Population by Age and State: 2005 [<1.0 MB]