Oklahomans' primary aim in putting a right-to-work law on the books was to end a gross imbalance in public policy. Prior to passage of right to work, the law protected each Oklahoma employee's right to support a union, but at the same time authorized the firing of many employees if they refused to support a union. The right-to-work law makes union dues and fee payments purely voluntary. Moreover, Oklahoma's economy has flourished since the law was upheld in 2003.
According to federal Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) data, total private-sector employment in Oklahoma increased by 8.1 percent from 2003 to 2010. Oklahoma's job gain was more than triple the average for forced-unionism states (then 28 in number) and more than 60 percent greater than the average for its three non-right-to-work neighbor states — Missouri, Colorado and New Mexico.
Over the same period, inflation-adjusted BEA data show private-sector employer outlays for employee compensation grew by more than 12 percent in Oklahoma. Real private-sector compensation expanded at a rate 13 times the non-right-to-work state average of 0.9 percent, and 3 1/2 times the 3.4 percent aggregate gain for Oklahoma's non-right-to-work neighbors. Moreover, the direct impact of Oklahoma's signature oil and gas extraction industry actually accounts for less than 14 percent of its overall real gain in compensation.
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