Pennsylvania, the next right-to-work state?

posted at 12:01 pm on January 25, 2013 by Erika Johnsen

Via the WFB, don’t get too excited yet — right-to-work bills have tried and failed repeatedly over the past decade in Pennsylvania, one of the most heavily unionized states in the country — but the Wisconsin-led momentum is definitely on a roll here.

Six GOP lawmakers on Tuesday introduced a proposal to make Pennsylvania, the “Keystone State,” the nation’s 25th right-to-work state. …

“The needs of our economy dictate that it must be adopted at some point in time,” said state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe. “The victory of right-to-work in Michigan and Indiana certainly thrust the spotlight on it and made the General Assembly look it more seriously than the past.” …

The advent of right-to-work in the traditionally labor-friendly Midwest and Rust Belt has left policymakers scrambling to catch up, said Nate Benefield, director of policy analysis at the free-market Commonwealth Foundation.

“Indiana and Michigan are states that we directly compete with,” he said. “We’re going to have to evolve to remain competitive and it’s also a great opportunity for us to outcompete the northeast.” …

“We are sitting on all of these resources—natural gas, shale, connection to the great lakes—but history has shown that we’re not creating enough jobs to keep our young people here; they’re going to right-to-work states to find jobs,” Metcalfe said. “The union status quo attitude has hampered our ability to create jobs.”

Ah, competition — drink it in, it always goes down smooth. The toppling of big labor’s once-thought infallible influence in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Indiana means that those states are now prime real estate for attracting jobs and businesses away from states that still allow employees to be forcefully unionized, and the higher GDPs, more robust economic growth, and better job growth that right-to-work laws encourage is good for all parties in the long run.

As Mary Katharine informed us yesterday, union membership has been on a general decline, and dramatically so in certain areas (isn’t odd how people seem disinclined to do things they don’t want to do, when they’re no longer forced to do so? So weird); if Pennsylvania finally does find themselves forced to step up their game to compete with Michigan and Indiana, then they’ll be the first right-to-work state in the northeast, which may in turn force states with high union membership-to-total workforce ratios like New York and New Jersey to reevaluate their own labor laws. Domino effect, anyone?

During the Michigan right-to-work fight last December, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said that he thinks his state “lacks the political will” to pass similar laws, although he would sign them if they came to his desk. Pennsylvania does indeed have even more unions members than Michigan did, so I’m sure we can expect a similarly ugly showdown if it comes down to it — but the newfound competition from other states might mean that right-to-work legislation carries a lot more weight than it has previously.


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