Right to Work Heads to Indiana

In 22 states in the Union, workers have the freedom under “Right-to-Work” laws to decide whether or not to pay union dues, and now Indiana is poised to become the twenty-third state on that list, bringing the workers there renewed hope in an economy that has seen few glimmers of light.

Last week, Indiana’s House and Senate passed a right-to-work bill after weeks of political maneuvering by pro-union politicians hoping to stop the proposal in its tracks. Today, the legislation returns to the state’s Senate for a final vote, and Governor Mitch Daniels (R) has promised to sign the bill into law. Meanwhile, a dozen labor unions have protested the measure, with threats to “occupy” the Super Bowl to be held in Indianapolis next week. Nationally, right-to-work states have become a target, as well. Last year, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) took aim at the Boeing Corporation for its decision to locate a new factory in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. The NLRB attempted to stop Boeing from making fundamental decisions about where to do business — ultimately, it dropped the case after union negotiators reached a deal that benefited their members in a union state.

Proponents of Indiana’s measure — which protects workers from being fired for not paying union dues — say that the law will help the state attract more businesses and jobs, spurring economic growth. And there’s data that proves it. Heritage’s James Sherk writes that right-to-work states have lower unemployment rates (9.2 percent) than states without right-to-work laws (9.9 percent). And though critics say that could be a result of regional differences (right-to-work states are mostly in the South and West), research comparing counties across state lines shows that, “The share of manufacturing jobs in counties in right-to-work states is one-third higher than in adjacent counties in non–right-to-work states,” as Sherk explains.

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