Now that Michigan has passed “right-to-work” legislation, such laws are in place in 24 states, allowing workers the right to choose not to pay dues to a union even if their company or organization has one. Pennsylvania should follow Michigan’s lead. While I think the strongest argument for a right-to-work law has to do with freedom, let’s focus on three substantial ways it would help Pennsylvania’s economy.
First, more money would stay in Pennsylvania. A portion of money currently spent on union dues goes out of state. Unions are well-known for big political ad purchases and contributions, with much of the money going to out-of-state consultants and costs.
With workers likely to spend the money they save on union dues, this would have the same effect as an economic stimulus package. People would have more money to purchase an extra meal or two at their favorite restaurants. Those restaurants and their workers would then have extra money to spend at other local businesses, and so on.
Next, taxpayers could save money on school taxes without harming teachers or students. Given that union dues take up a portion of teachers’ earnings, school districts could and should decrease pay to teachers by that portion. Teachers could receive the same net pay but cost taxpayers less. Or it could mean more funds to hire teachers or cover the costs of art and music programs.
Finally, right-to-work laws mean less money for public-school unions to fight against high-quality education. Teachers unions exist to obtain higher salaries and better working conditions for teachers, and to maximize the number of unionized teachers. This has caused unions to engage in many activities that have hurt the education of children, including fighting school choice, opposing the firing of bad teachers, and encouraging strikes. If teachers drop out of unions, there will be less such disruptive behavior, and children will be better off.
Even if right-to-work were bad for the economy, I think it would be the right thing to do. However, it is comforting to know that in this case, economic benefits will come from providing more freedom. I hope Pennsylvania lawmakers do the right thing and pass right-to-work.