"Danaher’s closing,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., lamenting the loss of a plant that had employed 330 people in his state. “Now those jobs are going to Arkansas and to Texas.”
It was April 2005. Neal was taking the opportunity during a House committee hearing on competition with China to complain instead about how Massachusetts was losing jobs to states with less-hostile business climates.
The Ways and Means Committee chairman in 2005, California Republican Bill Thomas, mildly rebuked Neal’s deviation from the topic, saying Massachusetts had shot itself in the foot with high taxes and compulsory union membership.
“At some point perhaps the good citizens of Massachusetts will pick up the drift,” Thomas said.
Businesses often consider government interference when they make decisions about where to locate. One instance of such interference is the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which established a regimen of special treatment for labor during an era when nearly one in three employees were union members.
Today, unions have lost relevance for more than 93 percent of American workers in the private sector, but this law remains with us, harming the ability of American businesses to compete. To see its results, we need only look south and west, to the success of our nation’s 22 right-to-work states.
Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 allows states to pass right-to-work laws, which bar union membership from being used as a condition of employment. In practice, these laws make unions significantly less powerful and less disruptive than did the original NLRA rules, and with tremendously positive economic results for everybody concerned.
A recent study by the staff of Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., pointed to some revealing data. Between 1993 and 2009, right-to-work states created jobs twice as quickly as states where forced unionism is permitted, and they enjoyed 10 percent faster growth in personal income. Right-to-work states account for only 40 percent of the U.S. population, but they hosted 60 percent of the nation’s new businesses from 1993 to 2009.
Such data contrasts mightily with facts such as this: Unions spent $400 million to elect President Barack Obama and Democrats in 2008 largely because of promises to use the federal government to restore labor to its former strength. The centerpiece of that effort was card check, which would have abolished secret ballots in workplace-representation elections if it hadn’t failed in Congress.
So now the Obama campaign to rescue dying unions is focused on the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB, controlled by Obama appointees, has filed a complaint against Boeing for expanding its manufacturing operations into DeMint’s right-to-work state. Obama is only trying to help his union campaign donors — as usual — but this effort is bound to backfire.
Right-to-work states are demonstrating daily that workers, their families and taxpayers all benefit when employees have the freedom to choose whether to join a union. There are 22 such states now and odds are that more are coming, which will be good economic news for them and the country.