Today, Missouri became the 28th state to enact right-to-work legislation, which prohibits forced payment of union dues as a condition of employment. Right-to-work laws increase worker choice and research finds they have a positive economic impact.
Primarily, these laws are about increasing worker freedom. No individual should be forced to financially support an organization with which they disagree, or be penalized for refusing to do so. Without right-to-work laws on the books, that is exactly what happens.
Economic benefits also accompany the passage of right-to-work laws. For example, research produced here at the Competitive Enterprise Institute shows:
- Real total personal income grew by 165 percent in right-to-work states over a 31-year period, outpacing the national average of 123 percent growth;
- In Missouri, workers lost an estimated $3,040 from not having a right-to-work law;
- Population has steadily grown in right-to-work states, jumping from about 29 percent in 1970 to 46 percent by 2013;
Given their benefits to workers and the economy, the popularity of right-to-work laws is no surprise. Survey after survey show that a majority of the public supports giving workers the choice whether or not to pay union dues. Most recently, a May 2015 poll conducted by the Missouri Alliance for Freedom found that 54 percent of Missourians support right to work, with 35 percent opposed and 11 percent undecided.
However, some free-market leaning organizations criticize right-to-work laws because they interfere with freedom of contract. They claim that employers and unions should be able to agree to union security agreements that require every worker pay union fees whether they want union representation or not. In a system based on freedom to contract, employers and unions should be able to force workers to pay dues. However, a vast majority of these criticisms of right-to-work laws fail to mention that true freedom of contract would also allow employers to completely reject unionization at their establishment, even if every single worker voted to form a union.
There is zero chance in the near to long term future that a system as described above will be implemented.
In the meantime, right-to-work laws that increase worker freedom are preferable to forced unionism laws that force workers to pay for union representation they do not want.
As I wrote previously, “Missouri workers deserve the freedom to choose how to spend their hard-earned pay. Enacting right to work in Missouri would give workers that ability, and send a signal to citizens and taxpayers that worker freedom takes priority over the special interests of labor unions.”