Idaho’s Experience Since 1986 Bodes Well For Michigan’s Economic Future as a Right to Work State

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UAW Chief: Right-To-Work Will Be Overturned

Even as he continued stubbornly to oppose Idaho's Right to Work law, Big Labor Gov. Cecil Andrus (shown here in a recent photo) couldn't help but notice that almost immediately after it took effect the state's economy began to soar. Image: nwcouncil.org

Right to Work legislation was approved by the Michigan Senate and House and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder more than a month ago, but the battle over compulsory unionism in the Wolverine State is far from over.  Union bosses led by United Autoworkers (UAW) union chief Bob King are already preparing to launch legal, political and legislative drives to overturn the Right to Work law, which takes effect in a few weeks, and they have plenty of accumulated forced-dues money to finance all of these efforts.  In the news story linked above, King discusses his plans with a reporter.

Freedom-loving Michiganders have always anticipated a Big Labor counterattack, and with assistance from the National Right to Work Committee, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, and other groups they can be expected to mount a formidable effort to safeguard their state’s ban on forced union dues and fees.

The experience of the 22 states that have had Right to Work protections for employees on the books for a decade or more shows that the new Michigan law adopted in December and the Indiana forced-dues ban approved in January 2012 are certainly worth defending.  Right to Work laws are important because, first and foremost, they ensure that the individual employee’s freedom not to join or financially support a union receives just as much statutory protection as his or freedom to join and pay dues.

But Right to Work laws are also strongly correlated with faster growth in private-sector jobs, wages, salaries and benefits.  An Institute blog post the other day briefly reviewed the superior economic performance of Oklahoma, the last state to enact a Right to Work law prior to 2012,  since its law withstood a Big Labor-backed court challenge in 2003.

Idaho, which passed the 21st state Right to Work law in 1985, has also had one of the fastest-growing economies in America since a Big Labor-instigated injunction on its law was lifted in 1986.

Even Democratic Gov. Cecil Andrus (1987-1995), a lifelong forced-unionism supporter who had bitterly opposed the Idaho Right to Work law’s enactment, couldn’t help but notice that an economic boom commenced in the state almost immediately after the statute took effect.  In a July 1988 interview with the Idaho Falls Post-Register, Andrus admitted that, virtually statewide, and contrary to the claims of his Big Labor allies, “The payrolls have increased dramatically.  If you had cheap labor, you couldn’t have that kind of increase.”

Over the past century, Andrus’s observation has been borne out by statistics, again and again.  From 1961 through 1986, real private-sector compensation in non-Right to Work Idaho grew at roughly the same rate the national average, outpacing it by less than 5%.    (The inflation-adjusted U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis data cited here include benefits and bonuses as well as wages and salaries.)  But real private-sector compensation growth in Right to Work Idaho from 1986 to 2011 surpassed the national average by a whopping 87%.

In today’s troubled economic climate, when state civic leaders are especially eager to do everything they can to facilitate income and job growth, the Idaho Right to Work model s looking more and more attractive to other states.

It’s easy for people in neighboring forced-unionism Montana, for example, to see that the job climate for talented employees is far superior in Right to Work Idaho.  That’s why, from 2000 to 2011, Idaho’s college-educated adult population grew 39% more than Montana’s.

Because Idaho is a long way away from Michigan, some union propagandists are hopeful they can foster “buyers’ remorse” about the Right to Work in the Wolverine State by trashing the Gem State’s economy, about which the vast majority of Michiganders know little.  Such propaganda, however, cannot withstand even minimal scrutiny by fair-minded observers who know the facts about Idaho’s economic performance since 1986.