Posted: February 17, 2012
Indiana this past week became the 23rd state to adopt right-to-work laws. And, although most of the right-to-work states are located in the southern and western regions of the country, there is a growing movement in the Midwest to consider enacting the legislation as states become more competitive to attract new business.
A right-to-work law is a statute that prohibits agreements between labor unions and employers to govern the extent to which a union can coerce employees to become members or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Some research indicates that states with right-to-work laws are better off economically. However, most union leaders would argue vehemently against passage of any such measure.
Iowa has been a right-to-work state for some time. Now, Republican lawmakers in Minnesota and even Michigan are toying with the right-to-work concept as a way to combat the perceived competitive edge that Indiana and Iowa may have when trying to lure companies to locate in their respective states.
If Governor Walker were able to fight off the upcoming recall effort, one would have to wonder if he and his Republican colleagues would entertain the thought of introducing right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin. After all, Governor Walker has already pushed through a plan that requires government workers to pay a larger share of their health plan costs and shore up the pension system by trimming future retirement liabilities. Walker's apparent dislike for unions has not gone unnoticed. Just ask the union leaders who rallied the troops last spring to protest in the State Capitol.
Prior to Indiana's passage of right-to-work legislation, no other state has adopted the law over the past decade. But with states struggling to create jobs and the decline of manufacturing in the Midwest, it may only be a matter of time before many more states look for tools that give them a competitive advantage over their neighbors.
Fortunately, Wisconsin does not have to worry about jobs being lost to our neighbors to the south. The State of Ilinois' debt rating is the lowest in the nation. On top of that, Illinois lawmakers last year raised individual income taxes by 67 percent and corporate taxes by 46 percent. If I were a business owner in the Land of Lincoln, I would be looking around to see if I could run my business more affordably somewhere else.
The question will be whether business owners see the grass greener in right-to-work states.