But both sides of the debate are alike in one thing: blowing the issue out of proportion. For a long time, we’ve had a bloc of states with right-to-work laws and a bloc of states without. In both places, with few exceptions, the decline of unions has been steady. Regardless of whether policies like these get enacted or repealed, it’s only going to continue.
It’s not even clear that right-to-work laws by themselves make a meaningful difference in anything. Iowa is a right-to-work state, but its unionization rate is higher than that next door in Missouri, which is not. Kansas has a bigger union presence with right-to-work than adjacent Colorado has without.
One big study cited by supporters found that when Oklahoma passed one of these measures, it reduced union membership but had no effect on manufacturing employment or earnings. Idaho saw an increase in manufacturing jobs but none in per capita income. All this brings to mind what screenwriter William Goldman said is the crucial fact about the movie business: “Nobody knows anything.”
Right-to-work laws are not the reason unionization has shrunk so dramatically.