As you are probably aware, Right to Work (Senate Bill 19) was passed by the Missouri Senate on Thursday, January 26.
After a week of discussion on the merits of the bill, 21 Senators voted in favor of its passage, and it was sent to the House of Representatives.
The House has fast-tracked passage of the bill and is likely to send it to the Governor’s desk by the end of the week. (Indeed, there’s a chance it might have passed by the time this message makes its way to you.)
Governor Eric Greitens has pledged to sign Right to Work once the bill makes it way to his desk, putting Missouri on track to become the nation’s 28th Right to Work state.
Missouri will join seven of our eight surrounding states that have enacted Right to Work legislation. That leaves Illinois as the only bordering state not to be a Right to Work state.
I'm sure you are already aware that I never substitute rhetoric for scholarship. I'm always eager for the details, and I have been diligently studying both sides of this issue for the past four years. I looked closely at data regarding economic development and job growth between Right to Work and non-Right to Work states.
I recently received a handwritten letter from a constituent in which he voiced his opinion on Right to Work. This constituent was asking me to oppose SB19 because he believes, ''Right to Work laws drive down wages...and makes it harder for working familiesto find jobs." He also asked me to look at other states because he presumes I would find that workers in Right to Work states "earn lower wages."
Let's begin by reviewing the data because if what my constituent alleges is true, they are all good reasons to vote against Right to Work legislation. I want to make Missouri more appealing to businesses seeking to create jobs and invest in new or existing facilities. More economic development means more jobs, higher wages and a strong middle class. Good things, right? If being a Right to Work state does not accomplish this-- or worse, has the opposite effect-- then it would be unwise to change Missouri's current labor laws.
Data shows that Missouri is being left behind by our Right to Work neighbors. Right to Work states have shown a 42.6 percent gain in employment during a recent ten year period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
During that same period non-Right to Work states gained only 18.8 percent. Even worse, Missouri has lagged behind every Midwestern state economically, as evidenced by our state’s 1.6 percent decline in private sector payroll. Right to Work states created jobs 2.5 times faster than states without Right to Work and have 1.3 percent lower unemployment rates.
A wide array of government data shows that long-term economic growth is substantially faster in the seven Right to Work states neighboring Missouri than in the "Show Me" state. Also, for a recent ten-year period, census data revealed that 5 million people migrated from non-Right to Work states to Right to Work states.
During that same period Missouri lost 12,000 residents. This migration out of Missouri was a contributing factor to a loss of a congressional seat with the end result of Missouri having a smaller voice in Washington D.C. I think that everyone would agree that manufacturing jobs are important for a strong middle class and higher wages.
The Center for Business and Economic Research found that the top states for new manufacturing jobs are Right to Work states. When it comes to new manufacturing jobs, our lack of a Right to Work law keeps us from being on the list of states that manufacturers are considering.
Now let's examine the assertion that workers in Right to Work states "earn lower wages." In fact, on the surface this statement is true. However, let's dig deeper and examine this further to see how well it holds up under a thorough analysis.
The statistics used in this argument do not take into account costs of living. I know about the cost of living in other states since I've lived in California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. All are high cost of living states. Believe me when I say you do not want the cost of living of those states to migrate to Missouri.
The cost of living in Right to Work states tends to be much lower, so a dollar goes a lot further. When comparing income and controlling for the cost of living, Right to Work laws have very little impact on wages.
Indeed, per-capita personal incomes are 4.1 percent higher in Right to Work states. Another question could be: Is union membership hurt when a state becomes a Right to Work state? The United Steelworkers local in Indiana thought they would lose members when that state became a Right to Work state in 2012.
Union leaders braced for a 40 percent drop in membership. However, five years later the union president stated that of their 3,000 members, the union lost no more than 70 members. This represents a little more than a 2 percent drop in membership so it would seem that the majority of members still feel the union does a good job of representing their best interests.
In Michigan, Right to Work came into law in 2013, and since then total union membership has remained relatively unchanged. In fact, unions in some Right to Work states have actually seen union membership increase.
Now let's get back to the original question. Was Right to Work right for Missouri? Based on the best available data, I believe when the question is reviewed with a fair and open mind the answer is clear – yes, adopting a Right to Work law is the right policy.
Right to Work states have stronger economic growth, attract more new businesses and increase job and wage growth, all of which are very good for Missouri employees and businesses. This is why I voted to make Missouri the 28th Right to Work state. Examine the data yourself and see how you would have voted on this important issue. However, remember to never substitute rhetoric for scholarship.