March 10, 2013

Right-to-work states may have edge

Let me begin this column by stating that it’s neither pro-union nor anti-union.

It’s a column about economic development and competitiveness in a changing business environment. A business environment where attracting both direct foreign investment and manufacturing operations that are returning to the U.S. is becoming more competitive every day.

It’s about New York competing with right-to-work states.

Right-to-work legislation doesn’t prohibit forming a union; it allows a worker a choice as to whether or not to join the union.

In January, Michigan became the 24th state to enact a right-to-work law. Many viewed the Michigan legislation as “anti-union legislation,” and it might have been. Others viewed it as Michigan’s strategy to gain a competitive advantage (primarily against Ohio) to attract new investment and to create jobs in Michigan.

Is right-to-work a competitive advantage? Business leaders seem to think so.

According to the Indiana Economic Development Council, subsequent to Indiana enacting right-to-work legislation in February 2012, 200 companies have announced that they would move to Indiana or expand existing operations; half cited the right-to-work legislation as influencing their decision.

Last June, Forbes announced its top ten “Best Places For Jobs And Careers.” Nine of the top-ten cities were in right-to-work states.

In response to Michigan adopting right-to-work legislation, the president of the Indiana Chamber of Commerce said, “In 30 to 50 percent of projects and investment, if you’re not a right-to-work state you don’t even get a chance to step in the batter’s box and take a swing. Indiana would have been happy to be the only right-to-work state in the Midwest for a long, long time.”

Business leaders in Pennsylvania believe that becoming the first right-to-work state in the northeast will give Pennsylvania its competitive advantage. Nate Benefield of Pennsylvania’s free-market Commonwealth Foundation said, “Indiana and Michigan are states that we directly compete with. We’re playing catch-up, but our immediate neighbors, New York and New Jersey, are even less competitive than Pennsylvania is.”

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