What Effect Does RTW Really Have on States?

The start of most state legislative sessions is still weeks away. But conservatives in one state aren't wasting any time, attempting to pass anti-worker legislation before the new year even begins.

Despite previously calling it a "divisive, polarizing issue that will drive people apart," and just a few months ago saying there were "many problems in Michigan that [were] much more pressing," Michigan Governor Rick Snyder decided this week to fast-track so-called "right-to-work" legislation. Conservatives in the state legislature happily complied, introducing and passing versions of the bill over the course of a few hours yesterday even as massive protests against the effort took place inside the state Capitol, calling to mind familiar scenes from other states in 2011 and 2012.

Michigan's Eclectablog describes the rapid-fire events that took place over the course of the day:

It was a crazy day but the Republicans accomplished what they intended to do. They went from Governor Snyder and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville equivocating on whether or not they wanted to take on the anti-union Right to Work for Less legislation to passing it out of both chambers with assurances from Snyder that he would sign it all in one day.

Progressive States Network's Executive Director Ann Pratt highlighted the stakes of the fight in Michigan in a statement released today, saying that Gov. Snyder and conservatives in Michigan were "engaged in an outrageous effort to ram through legislation that will harm families, drive up poverty, and erode economic security for all residents and businesses in their state."

Meanwhile, progressive state legislators from across the nation, who stood in solidarity with their counterparts in Wisconsin and other states that saw similar battles in 2011 and 2012, signaled they were prepared to do so again.

"Michigan voters have shown unified opposition to anti-worker legislation," noted Georgia State Senator Nan Orrock in a statement. "The initiatives being pushed by the governor are a slap in the face to the very workers who put the auto industry back on track."

Central to the argument made by proponents of "right-to-work" legislation is that states who enact the policy will see their economies thrive — it's an argument that's been made repeatedly by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which has long supported the policy. But as Detroit Free Press Editorial Page Editor Stephen Henderson noted in a column today, the evidence does not show that to be the case:

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the state’s top legislative leaders said Thursday they would pursue legislation to prohibit “closed shop” union rules, arguing that it would unleash a new era of economic freedom for the state.

It won’t. And simple math — the consistent foil for GOP narratives these days — exposes the great fallacy at the core of what Republicans in Lansing are trying to do....

By the most telling economic indicators, right-to-work states trail states where unions retain the right to make union membership a condition of employment — if the employees they represent vote to do so. There has been significant job growth in many right-to-work states, which have become magnets for companies that want to avoid the kind of wage and benefits that collective bargaining helps assure for working people. Such companies create jobs, alright — just not the kind Michigan legislators would want to see their own kids reduced to.

Via the Detroit Free Press, here's a great series of maps that illustrate some of that math. States with these anti-worker laws don't see greater income growth, but rather greater poverty, more uninsured people, declines in wages, and a lower quality of life:


Map: Right-to-work states