Posted 12/11/2012 06:00 PM ET
The president says right-to-work laws mean "the right to work for less money." So how does he explain the fact that incomes are up in RTW states while forced unionism is a proven job killer?
Campaigning Monday in Michigan as it stood poised to become the nation's 24th right-to-work state, President Obama spoke the exact opposite of the truth to union workers at a Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in the birthplace of organized labor.
"What we shouldn't be doing," he told the small crowd, "is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages. We don't want a race to the bottom. We want a race to the top."
Yet looking at the hard numbers, becoming a right-to-work state is a direct line to the top.
According to Michigan's Mackinac Center, using data taken from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and Bureau of Labor Statistics, private-sector, inflation-adjusted employee compensation in right-to-work states increased by 12% between 2001 and 2011 compared with just 3% over the same period in forced-unionization states.
These good wages came from good jobs. Employment in right-to-work states expanded 2.4% over the same stretch vs. a 3.4% decline in non-right-to-work states. Ironically, Obama is taking credit for jobs created in RTW states.
According to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, right-to-work states (excluding Indiana, which passed a RTW law in early 2012) "were responsible for 72% of all net household job growth across the U.S. from June 2009 through September 2012."
This is why people vote with their feet and move to these states. RTW states experienced large population gains of 15.3% from 2000 to 2010, compared to 5.9% in non-RTW states.
Obama did get one thing right, though, when he said the bills that passed both houses of the Michigan legislature "don't have to do with economics. They have everything to do with politics."
The president who fought Boeing's expansion in RTW South Carolina knows it's all about his keeping union dues flowing into Democratic coffers and maintaining the plush lifestyles of the union leaders who support him.
Michigan law will now bar requiring workers to pay money to a third party, namely unions, as a condition of employment. This has given rise to the big lie that workers who refuse to join a union and pay dues will get a "free ride" enjoying the benefits of union representation without contributing to that representation.
"No one is forced to join a union," said House Democratic Caucus Leader Tim Greimel, although workers in Michigan were forced to if they wanted a job at a union shop.
"They're asked to pay their fair share of the collective bargaining process. (RTW) gives them the chance to freeload and free-ride."
Yet in its most recent federal filings, the Michigan Education Association said "representational activities" (money spent on bargaining contracts for members) made up only 11% of total spending for the union.
Most of the rest went under the category "general overhead," which included union administration and, of course, the union political activities that include lobbying for more government spending. It's the unions that are getting a "free ride."
If unions satisfied workers, one would expect their membership to at least remain constant. But between 2000 and 2010, union membership declined by 9.5% in non-RTW states and 9.2% in RTW states. The only growth was in government unions.
Michigan's right-to-work law is a positive blow for worker freedom and economic growth and an example, as in Wisconsin and Indiana, of how conservatives can win and are winning in states led by GOP governors.