Editor's Note: This column was written by Chase Downham.
Economic freedom is often conflated with “business interests.” In reality, economic freedom is about promoting the individual’s interest. The Indiana State Legislature has great opportunity this year to advance economic freedom for our state’s individual workers.
Economic freedom enables individuals to build prosperity for themselves and their families. Workers enjoy economic freedom to the extent that they are able to freely offer their time and labor to potential employers. Unfortunately, Indiana law makes it difficult for the state’s workers to offer their labor to an employer if they object to joining a union or paying compulsory union dues. This is a result of the special protections for Indiana’s unions which allow them to form “union shops” and deny employment to non-union members. Workers who object to joining the local union or paying union dues may find themselves out of work.
Indiana should end this practice by passing a Right to Work law.
Right to Work laws do not prohibit unions from forming or inhibit collective bargaining. They do not discriminate against unions or union workers.
Rather, Right to Work laws create a level playing field for all workers and prevent discrimination against non-union members. In 22 states across the nation, Right to Work laws ensure that all workers enjoy the economic freedom to offer their labor and find employment according to their skills and talents, not the arbitrary demands of a local union.
Further, Right to Work laws protect workers for being forced to support political causes with which they disagree. Oftentimes, forced union dues are used to advance political candidates and issues which have little or nothing to do with local union concerns and which are certainly at odds with the political convictions of some union members.
Forcing workers to finance the political campaigns they oppose is simply unjust. No less a Democrat than the American framer Thomas Jefferson used no uncertain terms when he wrote: “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.” Right to Work will end the tyranny of forcing Indiana’s workers to “give” their hard-earned money to politicians and causes they oppose.
Right to Work is also an economic winner for the workers fortunate to live in one of the 22 states with Right to Work protections.
A study by the Bureau of Economic Analysis found that Right to Work states enjoy nearly double the job growth of non-Right to Work states. This should come as little surprise. Right to Work reduces the hurdles for good, talented workers to find suitable employment. Census data between 2000 and 2009 shows that nearly 5 million Americans have realized the economic benefits of Right to Work and “voted with their feet” – moving to Right to Work states from non-Right to Work states.
250,000 Hoosiers are currently out of work. Should union membership stop them from finding a good job in our great state?
The benefits of ending forced unionization extend to the entire state, as higher employment will result in higher total productive economic activity. As more productive labor is spent creating goods and offering services, the economy grows, bringing higher levels of prosperity for everyone. Economist Richard Vedder found that Indiana’s gross state product would have been nearly $23 billion higher had it passed a Right to Work law in 1977. Individual Hoosiers would enjoy nearly $3,000 in higher per-capital income. When more people can voluntarily offer their services, more workers have jobs and the entire economy grows, bringing prosperity to everyone.
Right to Work is not a Republican or Democrat issue. It is not even a “liberal” or “conservative” issue. Right to Work is about guaranteeing to our workers the economic freedom that already generally exists for non-Union workers.
It’s time for Indiana to stand up for all workers and pass Right to Work.