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Guest opinion: This Labor Day, celebrate Utah’s ‘right-to-work’ protections

By Mark Mix - Special to the Standard-Examiner | Sep 1, 2023

Happy Labor Day and congratulations! As a Utahn, you can celebrate the fact that you live in one of the 27 “right-to-work” states across the nation that are home to a majority of America’s working people.

You might not know it from right-to-work opponents’ rhetorical posturing, but right-to-work laws are simple and straightforward, not to mention popular. This means that workers in Utah — and most workers in America — can now freely choose whether or not to join or financially support a union.

Polls show that about 80% of Americans consistently say that they believe all workers should have right-to-work freedoms. Fortunately, most do.

In addition to 27 current state right-to-work laws, the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court decision, argued and won by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, means every public sector employee across the country also enjoys right-to-work protections under the First Amendment.

Right-to-work protects each worker’s freedom, but the advantages of right-to-work hardly stop there. Enshrining workplace freedom also brings significant economic benefits to the 27 states that have passed right-to-work laws.

According to Labor Department statistics, over the past decade (2012-2022), right-to-work states saw the total number of people employed grow by 15.7%. That’s nearly double the single-digit gain in non-right-to-work states over the same period.

Similarly, over the same decade, manufacturing payroll jobs in right-to-work states grew by 11.9%, compared to the meager 2.1% in forced-unionism states, according to an analysis of federal government statistics compiled by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research.

Additionally, the NILRR analysis found that after adjusting for the cost of living, workers in right-to-work states have $2,600 more in per capita disposable income and over $4,000 in additional after-tax household income than their counterparts in forced-unionism states.

In case you need another example of the job-creating power of right-to-work, see how right-to-work states have fared since COVID devastated the economy. As of this June, total employment in states without right-to-work laws still hasn’t recovered to pre-COVID February 2020 levels. Meanwhile, right-to-work states have added over 3 million jobs since before COVID hit.

Right-to-work laws make economic sense, but protecting employee freedom has always been their most important feature. Workers should never be forced to join or pay money to an organization they have no interest in supporting. Right-to-work laws do nothing to impede any employee from voluntarily joining or paying dues to a union; they simply ensure that no worker can be forced to hand over a portion of their hard-earned paycheck to union officials just to keep a job.

Right-to-work laws also encourage more flexible and responsive union officials in the workplace. That’s because workers can withhold their dues from union bosses that are unproductive, unethical or prioritize contentious politics over workers’ best interests.

If you are still hesitant where you stand on the right-to-work subject, ask yourself a simple question: Why shouldn’t union officials play by the same rules as every other private organization in the country?

Churches, civic associations and thousands of other private organizations thrive on voluntary association across the country. Despite the protests of union officials, there is no reason a union — made up of individual workers who freely choose to band together — cannot do the same.

By protecting employee freedom and spurring economic prosperity, it’s easy to see why right-to-work laws are so popular. That’s why this Labor Day, citizens of right-to-work Utah have much more to celebrate than just a three-day weekend.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Foundation.


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