IN 2001, voters made Oklahoma a right-to-work state and ended compulsory unionism as a condition of employment. Evidence continues to mount validating the wisdom of that decision.
In a report from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Richard K. Vedder and Jonathan Robe conclude that right-to-work laws “add demonstrably to the material quality of people’s lives.”
The apparent benefits of right-to-work laws are many. The authors note people have been migrating “in large numbers” from non-right-to-work states to right-to-work states. Economic growth is stronger in most right-to-work states. Personal incomes increase after passage of right-to-work laws, even after adjusting for “the substantial population growth that those laws also induce.”
Their research reviewed income levels in states that didn’t have right-to-work laws in 1977, a group that includes Oklahoma.
Vedder and Robe concluded that states without right-to-work laws during that time forfeited between $2,500 and $3,500 in per capita income. This translates into a median income loss of $13,000 per year for a family of four.
“That is the difference between, say, living in a three-bedroom home with one car and taking only one, short, nearby vacation to living in a larger four-bedroom home with two cars and taking a longer European vacation or a cruise,” Vedder and Robe write. “It is the difference between sending your children to a low-cost nearby community college and sending them to live four years at the state’s flagship university or even a private college.”
The total estimated income loss in 2012 from the lack of right-to-work laws in a majority of U.S. states was $647.8 billion.
Per capita income loss in Oklahoma was lower — $1,961— thanks to embracing a right-to-work law in 2001 and limiting the negative economic impact created by its absence. Even so, Vedder and Robe estimate the personal income losses caused by Oklahoma’s prior lack of a right-to-work law totaled more than $7.4 billion.
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