From the first day of the legislative session, my colleagues and I in the Missouri Senate sent a clear message that our main goal during the session is putting Missourians back to work. One proposal that was discussed in the Senate shortly before the Spring Recess is making Missouri a “Right to Work” state.
Simply put, the legislation makes sure that Missouri employees only join a union and pay dues if they want to, rather than as a condition of getting or keeping a job. During a Senate hearing on the bill, the committee room was packed with those wanting to testify on the issue. One of the most interesting pieces of testimony was from a site selection consultant who said that 75 percent of the manufacturers he works with prefer to be in a “Right to Work” state, with half of his clients refusing to consider forced-union states as a future location.
For me, the issue ultimately boils down to the potential for job growth. Between 2003 and 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, job creation in “Right to Work” states grew 2.5 times faster than in other states. Data also shows that unemployment is lower in the 22 states that have adopted “Right to Work” laws. In the last decade, those states have added 1.5 million private sector jobs, while the remaining states have lost 1.8 million jobs. In all of these instances, Missouri is being left behind because of our labor laws.
Workers are voting with their feet. Recent census results cost Missouri a congressional seat. That data also shows that businesses with jobs and the workers who take them are moving to states with worker protection laws. While forced-union states lost a total of nine congressional seats due to shifting populations, “Right to Work” states gained 11 congressional seats.
Some argue that “Right to Work” would result in lower wages for workers, but that doesn’t hold up when looking at the numbers. A study published in 2005 by a professor at the University of Colorado determined real disposable income in metropolitan areas in “Right to Work” states is higher, with nearly $4,300 more in after-tax purchasing power than its counterpart in another state. Many have tried to turn the issue of “Right to Work” into a fight between business and labor, but that should not be the case. Economic development is not a partisan issue because finding and holding a job has nothing to do with politics. I support Missouri becoming a “Right to Work” state because it is what is best for our workers. It’s time we show them our commitment to protecting and keeping their jobs.