The Wall Street Journal falsely claimed so-called “right-to-work” laws assist in job creation because they serve as “an attraction for many businesses” in an editorial attacking a South Dakota ballot measure that could roll back that state’s anti-union laws. In fact, “right-to-work” laws have continually proved to be ineffective tools at boosting local economies, and they may hurt economic mobility for working Americans.
The Journal’s editorial board slammed a ballot initiative in South Dakota that “would effectively repeal the state’s right-to-work law” by falsely claiming that such anti-union laws are one “secret to high employment.” The Journal’s assault on South Dakota’s Measure 23 echoes years of right-wing media myths on “right-to-work” laws and ignores the reality that “workers at any workplace always have the option as to whether or not to join a union.” The Journal cherry-picked two states with both low unemployment rates and “right-to-work” laws to make its farfetched assertion that cracking down on unions is good for the economy:
Right to work simply gives workers the right not to join a union, and South Dakota has had such a law since 1947, as do 25 other states. South Dakota’s 2.9% unemployment rate is tied with New Hampshire’s for the lowest in the country. Right-to-work laws aren’t the only secret to high employment, but they are an attraction for many businesses considering states for investment.
The measure is being pushed by the International Union of Operating Engineers. Last fall IOUE Local Chapter 49 Director of Special Projects Jason George told the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls that “unions are the only organizations in the country that are required to provide a service, but can’t charge a fee. We don’t think that’s fair.”
South Dakota’s Measure 23 was previously targeted by the conservative National Review, which suggested on November 3 that the state’s Republican-led legislature change the legal language that the initiative is already modifying in order to nullify its effects. Right-wing media have consistently attacked labor unions, but the facts have repeatedly showed that unions boost wages and economic mobility. An in-depth May 8, 2015, profile in The American Prospect compared two states with similar economies but radically different public policy initiatives -- Wisconsin, which pursued anti-labor policies, and Minnesota, which did not, -- and found “Minnesota’s economy has outpaced Wisconsin’s.”
Researchers have consistently found that “right-to-work” laws do not actually benefit workers. The Economic Policy Institute (EPI) analyzed employment growth in states with and without “right-to-work” laws and found that "the evidence is overwhelming" that “right-to-work laws have not succeeded in boosting employment growth in the states that have adopted them.” While EPI did not find that “right-to-work” laws boost employment, additional research from the think tank found wages in “right-to-work” states are 3.2 percent lower than states that do not have such anti-union laws. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) got similar results in a January 2014 report, finding that workers in “right-to-work” states made more than $7,000 less in an average year than their counterparts in “union security states.”
In addition, research suggests that children enjoy more economic mobility and nonunion workers receive stronger compensation in local economies with high rates of union membership. The Center for American Progress (CAP) found children from union families were better off than children in nonunion families in areas with lower rates of unionization. Unions also have a positive impact on the wages of nearby nonunion workers, and the decline of union rates has had a negative impact on wages “for union members and nonunionized workers alike."