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Costly exodus: Jobs continue to flow from pro-union states to right-to-work states

Right-to-work (RTW) states have added 1.3 million jobs since 2020, while the others lost 1.1 million.

Published: September 9, 2022 5:33pm

Updated: September 10, 2022 12:01am

(The Center Square) -

Jobs continue to pour out of pro-union states like Illinois and into states with more free-market policies, a report based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows.

Right-to-work (RTW) states have added 1.3 million jobs since 2020, while non-RTW states lost 1.1 million jobs, according to a study by economist Todd Nesbit and public policy analyst Michael LaFaive. RTW laws bar the termination of an employee for refusal to pay union dues if they don't want to.

“During the pandemic, there was a huge out-migration from states like Illinois, New York, New Jersey and California into the southern states like Texas, Florida, North Carolina an others, and all of those states happen to be right-to-work,” said Lee Schalk, vice president of policy at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Schalk notes that Illinois recently lost major companies like Caterpillar and Boeing to right-to-work states.

“It is something that is on the checklist when they’re considering to invest and what states to relocate to, right-to-work is on that list,” Schalk said.

Union membership has been on the decline for a decade in Illinois. To halt the decline of union jobs nationwide, House Democrats in March 2021 approved the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would force union membership on all workers at unionized companies and nullify state RTW laws. The PRO Act “allows collective-bargaining agreements to require all employees represented by the bargaining unit to contribute fees to the labor organization for the cost of such representation, notwithstanding a state law to the contrary.”

While praising the PRO Act, President Joe Biden stated that “nearly 60 million Americans would join a union if they get a chance.” But a new Gallup poll shows 58% of nonunion workers in the U.S. say they are not interested at all in joining a union.

Unions took a big blow in 2018 with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 decision, which allows state and local government workers to stop paying for the collective bargaining, legal, and related services that they receive from their unions.

“Janus says that no government employee can be forced to pay dues but here we are still litigating cases where unions are still doing it, and we are litigating all across the country on that issue,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation.

The report found that 16 of the 28 RTW states have now fully recovered the jobs lost during the pandemic, a distinction Illinois cannot claim. Of the non-RTW states, only Colorado and Montana have recovered all the lost jobs.

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