By Matthew Cameron
One of the questions at last night’s Republican presidential debate came from a New Hampshire reporter who noted that the state is considering enacting so-called “right-to-work” legislation. Since this subject has gained prominence among Republicans in recent weeks, several candidates leapt at the opportunity to reaffirm their support for anti-union labor policies. Here’s Newt Gingrich explaining his position:
I hope that New Hampshire does adopt right-to-work. I frankly keep it at the state level because as each new state becomes right to work, they send a signal to the remaining states, don’t be stupid.
Why you want to be at California’s unemployment level when you can be Texas’s employment level? Or North Dakota’s?
And I think…that if you believe in the 10th Amendment, we ought to let the states learn from each other. And the right-to-work states are creating a lot more jobs today than the heavily unionized states.
Indeed, why would anyone want to live in pro-union California with its 11.9 percent unemployment when they could enjoy the right-to-work paradises of Texas (8 percent unemployment) or North Dakota (3.3 percent)?
The answer, of course, is that things are a bit more complicated than Gingrich and other Republicans make them out to be. Leaving aside that there are factors other than labor policies that have had much more of an impact on Texas’s employment growth, the claim that right-to-work states are better off economically isn’t even accurate. In fact, a side-by-side comparison shows that 10 of the 22 right-to-work states had unemployment rates above the national average in April. Of the other 28 states and the District of Columbia, only nine had unemployment rates that exceeded the national average.
Moreover, eight of the 17 states with statistically significant employment growth from March to April were states without right-to-work to laws. The total number of jobs added in those states was 131,700 compared to only 108,400 jobs added in the nine right-to-work states with statistically significant job growth during that time.