Letter: Slow wage growth started with right-to-work law

From: Steve Schoettmer


In The Republic’s Sunday business section on Nov. 19, Morton Marcus wrote an article about how Hoosier wages were not keeping up in the manufacturing sector with the rest of the nation. His article concerned the 10-year period from 2005 to 2015, which was the most recent data available from the Annual Survey of Manufacturers.

The article pointed out that over this 10-year period, even though our Indiana factories were outperforming other manufacturers across the nation, Indiana’s production workers only saw an increase in wages of $3.19 per hour, while nationally that increase was $4.89 per hour. It also said that Indiana’s production workers went from being ranked sixth nationwide in wages in 2005 to 31st by 2015.

Now this may all sound like a bug with Indiana’s labor market, but it isn’t; it’s a feature. In 2012, before Indiana’s Republican-controlled state Legislature voted to make Indiana the 23rd “right-to-work” state in the nation, I helped Indiana’s AFL-CIO for a six-week period try to lobby the state legislature to not do that.

In fact, I set up a meeting with the presidents of the Diesel Workers Union, Terry Axum, and the Office Committee Union, Steve Green, as well as its vice president at the time, Vic Meek, and with state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, and state Sen. Greg Walker, R-Columbus.

During that meeting, we provided Smith and Walker with some studies and analysis, one of which was done by the Higgins Labor Studies Program, University of Notre Dame, public commentary, dated Jan. 3, 2012, titled “Right to Work Lowers Wages — And That’s a Fact,” written by Marty Wolfson.

We pointed out to them that there was quantitative data that showed that states that became right-to-work saw a corresponding reduction in wages for union and non-union workers alike of $1,500 per year, according to Notre Dame’s Higgins Institute. They both seemed to understand that going right-to-work would slow their constituents’ wage growth, but they saw that as a positive. They said it would make it more attractive for businesses to come to Indiana.

Let me repeat that. They chose to enhance corporate profits over the wages of their constituents. That means every year, hard-working Hoosiers will slowly fall further behind workers in non-right-to-work states, because the system has been rigged against them by this state’s Republican-controlled Legislature.

As I said, the slowed wage growth of Hoosiers is not a bug; it is a feature. And you can thank our Republican legislators for that.