The twenty-two states that have not required workers to join a union and pay union dues have enjoyed, as a group, more rapid employment and income growth, better job preservation, and faster recoveries from recession. Oregon is not one of those states, yet. Here, policymakers tried to pull us out of the most recent recession through greater state spending, funded by the Measure 66 and 67 tax increases. Research concluded that those measures actually will make our situation worse. Now, new research confirms that a better approach is for Oregon to remove a key barrier to private sector initiative and job creation by enacting a so-called “right-to-work” law.

Right-to-work laws provide job seekers and current employees the right to work for a company whether or not they choose to join a union. On February 1 Indiana became the twenty-third Right-to-Work state when its Senate approved a bill and Governor Mitch Daniels signed it into law.

A new study from Cascade Policy Institute (Right to Work Is Right for Oregon) examines the economic impacts right-to-work legislation would have on Oregon. The study is consistent with the vast majority of peer-reviewed research in finding that if Oregon were a right-to-work state, we would see improved employment and income growth. For example, enacting right-to-work legislation this year would lead to:

  • 50,000 more people working in five years; 110,000 more working in ten years.
  • $2.7 billion more in wage and salary income in five years; $7.0 billion more in ten years.
  • 14 percent more taxpaying families per year moving into Oregon from non-right-to-work states.

A right-to-work law can be viewed as part of a pro-investment package that encourages firms to locate and expand in the state. In turn, the improved opportunities would have the effect of attracting more taxpaying families to Oregon from other states, while slowing down the number who leave. By examining IRS mobility data, we found that a right-to-work policy here would increase net in-migration from non-right-to-work states by 14 percent from what it otherwise would be. That is a significant number of new families bringing their earning power and their consumer needs with them. Think how our depressed housing market could benefit from such a trend.

Our study breaks new ground by covering 70 years of data and every state and relying on what we believe to be the largest datasets ever used to study the impacts of right-to-work laws. The results demonstrate more than just a correlation between right-to-work policy and economic growth, but point toward a causal link. In other words, we conclude that the right to work actually contributes to more employment, higher incomes, more net in-migration of taxpaying households, and faster economic growth. It is, therefore, a policy we believe Oregon should adopt.

Unlike fiscal policies that must weigh spending against taxes or pit one government program against another, enacting right-to-work legislation will not take a single dime out of state coffers. Indeed, right-to-work legislation is one of the few pro-growth policies that are actually costless to enact.

Oregonians need to recognize that capital and people are mobile. Tax measures 66 and 67 push high-income people and corporations away from the state and likely will lose Oregon up to 70,000 jobs and 80,000 high-income tax filers in the ten years after their passage. Enacting a right-to-work law will put mobility to work in our favor, likely adding 110,000 jobs in ten years and 14 percent more taxpaying families from non-right-to-work states every year.

Even if our research had not shown so clearly that Oregon’s economic prospects would improve as a right-to-work state, we still would support the policy based on the non-economic benefits that the name itself implies. It is unconscionable that workers are denied the right to earn a living simply because they decline to join a union. Basic principles of liberty and justice demand that we defend everyone’s right to work without third-party interference. The right to work is, therefore, a moral as well as an economic imperative.

Click here to read the full report.

8 thoughts on “Why Oregonians Deserve the Right to Work

  1. Here, here! I’ve been trying to get the ORP to take up an initiative petition to bring Oregon within the right-to-work realm… Of course those do-nothing no-goodnicks won’t do anything good for the state.

    You know the legislature will never carry this torch. Mr. Buckstein, will you get an attorney friend to write up the initiative?

    1. Lucy, an initiative petition may very well be the way to get Right-to-Work in Oregon, but before such a measure is written up there will need to be one or more organizations willing to fund the effort to put it on the ballot and run a credible campaign for its passage.

      Cascade is a think tank; we don’t run such campaigns, but we would be delighted to share our research with any such groups.

  2. You, sir, are a liar. I am certain that you already know that it is illegal to deny someone a job based on union membership. Closed shops have been illegal in the United States since Taft/Hartley. All CBAs in the state of Oregon provide for Agency Fee-Payer status that allows a worker to pay for the services they receive due to the cooperation between management and a labor union without joining the union.

    Your figures are misleading at best, but since you have already shown that you will blatantly lie in your rhetoric about what is and is not legal, I imagine the “datasets” you used for your study are just as specious.

    1. Mr. Lister, while you are of course correct that it is illegal to deny someone a job based on union “membership,” in 26 states including Oregon it is legal to deny someone a job if they do not pay agency fees to the union they chose not to join.

      You may value the services that your union provides for those fees, but Right to Work allows other workers to make that decision for themselves.

  3. I would be interested to see what the median income was in the right to work state vs a non-right to work state compared to the cost of living. I seems like the standard of living differences were left out of this research. The term income growth was used a little vague/misleading in its context of what it would actually provide. Is it income growth due to the job growth or income growth for a person in the same position? We do not want to see companies or people told how much money they can make but we like to tell the working class how much we are willing to pay them. It seems like hypocrispy.
    I am not sure if I have seen anyone be denied a job if they did not want to join a union. Even in manufacturing they are able to opt out, if the person does not want to be union, why apply there? There are plenty of union and non-union positions out there. To say otherwise I would need to see the research numbers (and I already know what they are)
    The article also says that there would be the potential of more jobs being created. It does not say if the jobs were going to be lower paying jobs in the same sector or more jobs at the current standard of compensation.
    I have worked in many states and have seen the difference first hand in right to work states. They work better for a couple of years and then become repressed quickly. You need both the union and the non-union in a state to make the economy work. It is called checks and balances.
    We all have a choice and you can look at the market share numbers to verify that. I am not union at this point and I do just fine. To say that you cannot find a job and it is the unions fault is an excuse. We can just choose not to apply at a union site.
    It appears that much was left out of this research or it was an incomplete effort, I would like to see more on this subject as I find it interesting.

    1. “We do not want to see companies or people told how much money they can make but we like to tell the working class how much we are willing to pay them. It seems like hypocrispy.”

      I’m not sure why you consider this hypocrisy. Right to Work policy doesn’t tell anyone “how much we are willing to pay them,” it simply allows workers in organized companies or government agencies to not only decide whether they want to join the union but whether or not they want to pay dues for both political and non-political union activities.

      As for the income adjusted for cost of living in Right to Work versus non-Right to work states, US Commerce Department data show this result for 2012:

      Median Income Adjusted for Cost of Living:
      RTW states $51,345
      non_RTW states $46,084

      This and other comparisons, gathered from government sources, between RTW and non-RTW states can be found here:

      1. I looked up your source. The data does not include the cost on burden per labor unit so it is omitting the benefit package. I read through the Dept of Comm report but found it only comparing wages.

        Right to work does tell people how much they can make. I saw it in Idaho, Mississippi, Clorado, Oklahoma, Utah, and the Carolina’s. There was a massive difference in my cost compared to theirs while there. They had no retirement, large health care deductables, ect. I was $65/hr on burden and I saw it down to $18/hr on burden it Mississippi.

        Again, why not just make the personal choice to not be union or to join a union? No union in Oregon has a strangle hold on any industry in the private sector. Lots of government contracts go to non-union companies.

        Is the state workers that is the target here? I would work for the state but I cannot afford the pay cut. They make 10% less than me on burden compared (to the salary website).

        Is the target prevailing wage jobs? If the cost of prevailing wage goes down that means the median cost or true income of the average person goes down as well. What would be the gain for the working class other than to contribute to the

        I am not so sure that with the employment choices we have in this state that we would even need this law. If we don’t want to be union, put in applications where there is no union. Why bust up the check and balance system? If the union company was not profitable, would they still be in business? If that was the case could I not just set up a non-union company and take all the market share? If it was that simple there would be no union.

        Thanks for answering one of my questions. Even though I do not exactly agree with some of it the research you listed and some I did on my own was an interesting read.

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