Minnesota is surrounded



Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work state this month and made sure that Minnesota is surrounded by such states even as it expands the powers of unions.

Right-to-work legislation ensures that workers are not compelled to pay any sorts of dues to unions unless they choose to do so. Critics of such legislation claim that it is damaging to union power and drives down wages. Proponents argue that having such laws in place is both pro-business and pro-Freedom of Association. Right-to-work laws create jobs and allow workers the choice of whether to support unions and their lobbying activities for certain political institutions, they say.

Both of these are not hard and fast rules, especially since statistics do not account for factors such as the relative cost of living in Alabama compared to California, which would result in higher wages in the latter in and of itself. Leaving aside the ethical implications of forcing workers to contribute indirectly to political causes and candidates they may not support, the most direct proof of the effectiveness of right-to-work legislation is to be found in companies’ choices of where to locate.

For example, in 2011, the German company Siemens started manufacturing power-plant turbines in Charlotte, North Carolina. In the same year, British-based Rolls-Royce began making engine parts in Virginia. The sole Hyundai manufacturing plant in the United States is located in Montgomery, Alabama.

Perhaps more newsworthy than the location of these foreign companies’ first plants in right-to-work states is the expansion of the domestically founded Boeing to South Carolina in 2011. Boeing opened a second Dreamliner manufacturing plant, a move that brought lawsuits forward claiming that the expansion was a form of retaliation against unionized workers in Boeing’s home state of Washington, despite the fact that Boeing had no plans to close the plant there.

It is only natural that businesses choose to locate in states that allow them a certain degree of flexibility. Indiana, Michigan, and now Wisconsin have all become right-to-work states in the past couple years, leaving Minnesota a forced-unionism state surrounded by more attractive states for employers. Recent pushes in Minnesota such as the unionization of in-home daycare providers will make employers even more wary of locating in Minnesota, especially when more attractive options lie just across the state boundary. As it continues to choose policies that make it less and less competitive, Minnesota may find itself facing unemployment more like its Midwestern, forced-unionism comrade Illinois, at 6.1 percent, rather than that of neighboring right-to-work North Dakota’s national low of 2.8 percent.