In a recent article in the Detroit Free Press, Michigan Education Association spokesman Doug Pratt asserted that two right-to-work states lost jobs when they adopted right-to-work legislation.
“You look at the numbers in North Carolina and Oklahoma, they lost jobs when they went right-to-work,” Pratt said.
But Paul Kersey, the director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said Pratt is “grasping for straws.”
Oklahoma’s right-to-work law went into effect Sept. 28, 2001, just weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Oklahoma did have fewer jobs the first three years after enacting right-to-work but, overall, has seen job growth faster than the national average over the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Oklahoma had 1.49 million jobs in 2001, dropped to 1.47 million in 2002 and 1.44 million in 2003, but rebounded to 1.52 million jobs in 2010. This is a 2.1 percent increase since 2001. Meanwhile, the United States saw a 1.5 percent reduction in jobs from 2001 to 2010, dropping from 131.8 million jobs in 2001 to 129.8 million jobs in 2010.
Michigan fared far worse, dropping from 4.5 million jobs in 2001 to 3.8 million in 2010.
North Carolina enacted right-to-work legislation March 18, 1947. Pratt didn’t respond to an email asking if he meant to refer to a state that has allowed right-to-work for more than 60 years.
North Carolina had 879,000 jobs in 1947 when the right-to-work law was enacted. That dropped to 868,000 in 1949, but the state experienced positive job growth during 24 of the next 25 years.
“Every state will occasionally suffer a short decline in jobs during recessions or just random statistical noise, so technically he isn’t lying, but what he’s saying is meaningless,” Kersey said in an email. “Oklahoma passed their right-to-work law right after the 9/11 attacks, and naturally their economy took a hit from that. But since passing right-to-work in 2001, Oklahoma has managed to increase employment while nationally job numbers have declined. If you pick out one state for one year you can find anything. Step back and look at the longer term and it becomes clear that right-to-work states have the upper hand when it comes to creating jobs.”
Similarly, a 2007 analysis of right-to-work laws across the nation, conducted by Kersey for the Mackinac Center, revealed that from 2001 to 2006, states with right-to-work laws significantly outperformed those without. The percentage growth in gross domestic product for right-to-work states during the period was 18.1 percent, versus 13.6 percent for states without right-to-work protections. Michigan, a state without a right-to-work law, fared worse with just 3.4 percent GDP growth.
Employees covered by state right-to-work laws are not required to pay union fees to keep their jobs, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.