Black Americans Especially Inclined to ‘Vote With Their Feet’ Against Forced Unionism

By Stacy Swimp, president of the Frederick Douglass Society (click here to download pdf of Fact Sheet)

In the wake of Michigan’s stunning enactment of the 24th state Right to Work law this month, diehard proponents of compulsory unionism are now mounting a desperate bid to sow racial division over such legislation, which prohibits the firing of employees for refusal to pay dues or fees as a condition of employment.[1] 

Unfortunately for union propagandists, U.S. Census Bureau data indicate that Americans of all races are “voting with their feet” in vast numbers against compulsory unionism.  This is actually true to an even greater degree of  blacks, the racial group Big Labor propagandists especially like to depict as supposed beneficiaries of monopolistic unionism, than it is of Americans in the aggregate.

From 2000 to 2010, the black population of the U.S. increased by 12.3%, or 4.27 million.  But 70% of the overall increase occurred in the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books at the time, even though slightly fewer than half of all black people in America resided in them in 2000.[2]  (Since Indiana and Michigan became the 23rd and 24th Right to Work states, respectively, only this year, they are counted as forced-unionism states in this analysis.)

In other words, from 2000 to 2010 Right to Work states’ black population increased by 17.4%, well over double the 7.6% increase for forced-unionism states as a group.  Had forced-unionism states’ black population grown as fast as the national average, there would have been more than 800,000 additional black Americans living in those states in 2010.  And the 9.8 percentage point advantage in black population growth Right to Work states enjoyed over forced-unionism states from 2000 to 2010 was actually slightly wider than the 9.0 percentage point edge Right to Work states registered in white population growth.[3]

In a column published shortly after the 2010 Census data became available, economist and political observer Thomas Sowell noted that a disproportionately large share of the blacks moving out of forced-unionism stronghold states like Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, New York and New Jersey are in their career-building years and have a lot of earning potential: 

Among the blacks who moved, the proportions who were in their prime – from 20 to 40 years of age – were greater than in the black population at large. In short, with blacks, as with other racial or ethnic groups, those with better prospects are leaving the states that are repelling their most productive citizens in general with liberal [e.g., pro-forced unionism) policies.[4]

Blacks ‘Are Acting as Other Americans Would –  Searching For Better Economic Opportunity…’

An AP story analyzing the same data and published in February 2011 concurred with Sowell:  

The nation’s blacks are leaving big cities in the [forced-unionism] Northeast and Midwest at the highest levels in decades, returning to fast-growing states in the . . . [Right to Work] South in search of better job opportunities and quality of life.[5]

The AP report quoted Isabel Wilkerson, the author of a book about the Great Migration out of the segregated South by blacks seeking to escape the Jim Crow system and advance economically. This black migration out of the South ended nearly half-a-century ago.  In recent decades, to a large extent, Wilkerson observed, “African Americans are acting as other Americans would – searching for better opportunity in [the Right to Work states of] the Sun Belt.” 

The compulsory-unionism system reduces economic opportunities for all kinds of employees, regardless of their skills, race, or ethnicity.  Because they deny employees who oppose irresponsible union bosses’ straight-jacket work rules and hate-the-boss class warfare the freedom to fight back by cutting off their dues, pro-union monopoly labor policies ultimately slow productivity growth and make America poorer.

Back in 1935, when Congress for the first time authorized and promoted the extraction of forced union dues from unwilling workers by passing the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) expressed grave concerns.  An editorial appearing in Crisis, the NAACP’s flagship publication, warned:   

[T]he act plainly empowers organized labor to exclude from employment in any industry all workers who do not belong to a union.  It is needless to point out the fact that thousands of Negro workers are barred from membership in American labor unions and, therefore, that if the closed shop is legalized by this act Negro workers will be absolutely shut out of employment.[6]

The NAACP fears that compulsory unionism would exacerbate the evils of racial discrimination were in many instances borne out in the decades that followed.  In 1943, for example, the National Labor Relations Board, even as it expressed grave reservations about perpetuating forced-unionism privileges for a racially discriminatory union, found that “segregated locals were not inherently discriminatory.”  Two years later, while promising to penalize egregious racial discrimination by unions, the NLRB stated: 

Neither exclusion from membership nor segregated membership per se represents evasion on the part of a labor organization of its statutory duty of ‘equal representation.’[7]

Three years after Congress adopted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Yale law professor Ralph Winter bemoaned the fact that “the political power of unions had delayed and impeded antidiscrimination efforts, rooted in the conflict of interest between union members and black competitors.”  Winter decried union officials’ “racially biased exercise of monopoly power . . . .”[8]

It is deeply cynical for proponents of the monopolistic NLRA and its forced-dues provisions specifically to pose as advocates of racial nondiscrimination and harmony.  The fact is, for decades Big Labor often worked hand-in-hand with segregationists when union officials thought such cooperation would serve its interests.  Even today, compulsory unionism continues to impede black Americans’ ability to advance economically.

Big Labor apologists who are now trying to play the race card against Right to Work laws need to answer one simple question:  If forced unionism is so good for blacks, why are they fleeing in droves the states where this exploitative system is still authorized and promoted by law?

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Nothing here is to be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress or any state legislature.

Stacy Swimp is president of the Frederick Douglass Society – a nonpartisan public policy and educational institution that advocates for the freedom of all Americans to work and learn.  Additionally, he is a spokesman for Project 21, the nation’s largest network of black conservatives and a board member of Michigan Freedom to Work.

Mr. Swimp is the host of Contagious Transformation, a weekly conservative political commentary program on Internet radio.  He is also an alumnus of the Great Lakes Bay Region African-American Leadership Training Institute and of the Henry Marsh Institute of Public Policy.  You can contact Stacy at  Follow his writings at


[1] See, e.g., “You Hate Right to Work Laws More Than You Know: Here’s Why,” Huffington Post, December 16, 2012 blog item.

[2] See the U.S. Commerce Department’s Statistical Abstract of the United States, 2002 (Table 22) and 2012 (Table 19) editions.

[3] Ibid.

[4] From “Voting With Their Feet,” as published on, March 29, 2011.

[5] “Census Estimates Show More U.S. Blacks Moving South,” USA Today, February 16, 2011.

[6] Quoted in Paul Moreno, Black Americans and Organized Labor,Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2006, p. 172.

[7] Ibid, p. 209

[8] Ibid, p. 257.