by Megan Graham
Michigan became the latest state to pass right-to-work legislation last week, months after Indiana passed a similar statute.
Right-to-work legislation prohibits union security agreements, or governing employees to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment. Gov. Mitch Daniels believed the law would entice businesses to relocate and keep labor costs down. Some believe states in the Midwest are passing right-to-work to entice companies to bring business within their borders, as other states begin to eye similar statutes.
“I think at this point in time, the impact has been minimal on all parties concerned,” said Craig Dunn, chairman of Howard County Republican Party. “The tremendous economic impact of new jobs that was promised with its passage hasn’t occurred yet, and I think that’s something that will unfold over time. It may take several decades for [right-to-work] to have an impact.”
He said Indiana may expect to see effects similar to other right-to-work states. Indiana, the 23rd state to enact the statute, was the first state to do so in more than a decade.
“If you look at the other states that have had right-to-work for a while, they have done a pretty good job of attracting new jobs, and the average wage has been lower,” Dunn said.
Despite heavy union push-back, the Michigan right-to-work legislation passed.
“I know that there’s intense competition trying to attract new companies. There seems to be a school of thought that states with right-to-work have lower unemployment and better chances to attract those companies. I think that’s definitely what drove [passage in Michigan],” said Brian Howey, who writes the political blog Howey Politics Indiana. “I have not seem quantitative statistics that prove that.”
The Indiana Economic Development Association said presence of right-to-work legislation has had substantial success in bringing jobs to Indiana. The IEDA said 90 prospective companies said right-to-work was a major factor in their consideration of bringing work to Indiana, the Associated Press reported. Thirty-one of those companies have since decided to bring their companies to Indiana, accounting for a projected 3,700 jobs and $431 million in investment.
Rick Ward, chairman of the CAP council in Kokomo, said he commiserated with union members in Michigan. He said he hasn’t seen the impact of right-to-work legislation thus far.
“Right now in Indiana, as far as unions go, there has been reported a slight drop in membership,” he said. “Here in the UAW, for now, it hasn’t affected us because our contract is still in place until 2014.
“It has not been adversely affected yet.”
Ward said right-to-work legislation is misleading because it doesn’t actually give any “right” to employment at all, only gives the right to not pay union dues. He said the benefits reaped from union membership, like collective contract negotiation for wages and benefits, are threatened when members are not required to pay union dues.
“‘Right to work’ sounds good, but it doesn’t give you any right to work,” he said. “It sounds good, but it’s not.”
Ward said legislation in Indiana and Michigan were both passed through with disregard to how it would affect constituents.
“That’s not what democracy is,” he said.
Megan Graham is the Kokomo Tribune business reporter. She can be reached by phone at 765-
454-8570 or by email at email@example.com.