By Jon Cassidy | Ohio Watchdog
COLUMBUS — A new book from the former president of The Buckeye Institute makes the case that forced unionization is one of the main reasons the economy of Ohio has been disintegrating over the last two decades.
The issue is on the horizon. Activists have been gathering signatures. But observers say it will be delayed until the next election cycle, after unions and their allies rallied last fall to restore collective bargaining for public workers.
Matt A. Mayer, the president of Opportunity Ohio and a visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, argues for allowing workers to choose whether to join a union, among other topics, in his new book, “Taxpayers Don’t Stand A Chance: Why Battleground Ohio Loses No Matter Who Wins (And What To Do About It).”
Mayer contrasts economic growth in right-to-work states with that of forced unionization states, finding a stark advantage for the free states in job creation. He also looks at the stagnation of states with stricter union rules. (In a right-to-work state, people aren’t required to join or pay dues to a union at their workplace; in forced unionization states, unions may negotiate contracts that require all new hires to join them or pay dues.)
“In terms of Ohio, it simply cannot be stated more clearly than this: Ohio’s economy has been one of the worst in the United States over the last two decades,” he writes. “No matter what shorter time frame you analyze, Ohio is ranked among the weakest job markets in the country.”
In the ’90s, Ohio was 38th in job creation, then dead last in the 2000s.
Mayer argues that World War II caused such damage to world economies that the United States was spared competition for decades afterward, allowing unions to drive up wages and benefits to levels that would prove unsustainable.
Michigan and Ohio, for example, have a long history as economic powerhouses. In 1930, they were 13th and 12th, respectively, in per capita personal income. By 1970, they were 12th and 15th, thanks to the growth of the automotive industry and other manufacturing.
By 2010, they had fallen to 39th and 33rd in the country, as the rise of global competition made union costs and inflexibility untenable.
The heart of Mayer’s case is a comparison of job growth between right-to-work states and forced unionization states.
“According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 1990 to 2012, states that protect workplace freedom have averaged 38 percent net job growth compared to forced unionization states that have only averaged net job growth of 13 percent,” he writes. “That means workplace freedom states have added jobs at roughly three times the rate of forced unionization station states since 1990.”
The top six states in job growth all have workplace freedom: Nevada, 83 percent growth; Utah, 81 percent; North Dakota, 73 percent; Arizona, 69 percent; Idaho, 68 percent; Texas, 56 percent.
No states from the Rust Belt, New England, Mid Atlantic, or Appalachia made the top 15 in job growth. Four forced unionization states – Colorado, Montana, Alaska and New Mexico – made the top 15, but they’re all in the South or West.
Over the same 22 years, the 15 states with the worst job growth in that time were all forced unionization states: Connecticut, -3 percent; Rhode Island, 0.8 percent; Michigan, 3 percent; New Jersey, 5 percent; Ohio, 6 percent; Massachusetts, 7 percent; New York, 7 percent; Illinois, 8 percent; Maine, 10 percent; Pennsylvania, 11 percent; Missouri, 13 percent; Vermont, 13 percent; California, 14 percent, Hawaii, 14 percent; Indiana, 14 percent.
You could get different results adjusting for population growth, but that might be the point: people go where the jobs are.
“In what may be the most jaw-dropping figure, despite possessing 65 million fewer people, workplace freedom states netted 11,806,400 jobs, compared to forced unionization states that only added 7,873,200 jobs from 1990 to 2012,” Mayer writes.
Advocates for mandatory union membership often point to a study by the Economic Policy Institute that shows workers in right-to-work states earn 3 percent less than their counterpart, although unemployment is a point lower, too.
The study controls for a bunch of differences between the two groups, as right-to-work states are concentrated in the South and Midwest, where cost of living is much lower and there are different demographics.
Mayer doesn’t criticize the EPI study, but he said he finds that statistical adjustments can’t explain away the South’s troubled history.
“The legacy of the institution of slavery cannot be dismissed when comparing economic conditions in the southern states,” Mayer writes. “For example, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 1930, which is nearly two decades before Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, allowing states to pass workplace freedom laws and before the height of labor union power, nine of the eleven confederate states had the lowest per capita personal income in America, with an average of only $309.93. In comparison, the fifteen states with the highest per capita personal income in 1930 had an average 155 percent higher ($789.87).”
By 2010, Virginia, Florida and Texas had joined the modern economy, but the poorest states were still in the South.
They’re making progress, though. Workplace freedom has allowed the poor states to close the gap with historically richer union states, Mayer writes.
“In 1960, roughly ten years after the first set of states enacted workplace freedom laws, the difference in personal income between the two sets of states was 78.3 percent. Just a decade later, it had come down to 16 percent. By 2010, the difference stood at 11.5 percent.”
Mayer presents compelling data on jobs, real personal income growth, private sector GDP growth, and more, all providing a look at the issue that goes deeper than simple pro- or anti-union rhetoric.