The Problem With the Right to Work

One of the things to pay attention to in Mitt Romney's latest South Carolina ad is his implicit defense of the state's "right-to-work" law, which makes it more difficult for unions to organize. "The National Labor Relations Board, now stacked with union stooges selected by the president, says to a free enterprise like Boeing, 'You can't build a factory in South Carolina because South Carolina is a Right to Work state,'" Romney says in the ad. "That is simply un-American. It is political payback of the worst kind." Combine this with his attack on President Obama as a "crony capitalist," and I wouldn't be surprised to see Romney tout right-to-work laws as part of his strategy for reviving the economy.

The problem, of course, is that said laws do nothing of the sort. The Economic Policy Institute has a great primer on the actual effect of right-to-work laws on workers, wages, and employment. On the whole, RTW laws "reduce wages by $1,500 a year, for both union and nonunion workers", "lower the likelihood that employees get healthcare or pensions through their jobs…for both union and nonunion employees", and "have no impact whatsoever on job growth." Moreover, the job growth attributed to right-to-work laws has more to do with warm weather and population growth than it does with a particular legal regime:

People and businesses move for things such as better weather; Indiana, for example, averages 25 snow days per year, a significant cost of business. By comparison, Texas has two snow days per year and Florida none.

National data show that most people move from one state to another to find more affordable housing, to meet certain family needs, to retire, to move to or from college, to access better weather, or for other reasons unrelated to work.

South Carolina stands as an excellent example of this; its mild winters and low snowfall make it excellent choice for people moving from the north. What's more, it has a growing population of Latino immigrants, and a sizeable military presence. Regardless of its labor laws, South Carolina is well-situated for economic growth over the next decade.

All of this is to say that improving the economy has nothing to do with Romney's defense of right-to-work laws; conservatives hate unions, and Romney plans to establish himself as a union-buster that they can trust.


Tags: mitt romney, national labor relations board, nlrb, unions

    • Jamelle Bouie
    • Jamelle Bouie is a blogger and journalist in Washington, DC. Since July 2010, he has been a Writing Fellow for The American Prospect, and his work has appeared at The Washington Independent,, The Loop 21, and a number of other blogs and outlets. His writing focuses on political behavior and elections, with particula...

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