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Column: Indiana’s right-to-work concept beneficial for Michigan


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I was playing on the Internet this weekend and came across a Michigan writer who was lamenting about our neighbors to the north becoming a right-to-work state.

One of the reasons Michigan adopted RTW is because Indiana did back in February. The writer, Rick Haglund, writing for MLive.com, says Michigan is making a mistake adopting RTW. He said:

“Indiana’s unemployment rate is lower than Michigan’s and job growth in the Hoosier state has outpaced that of the Wolverine state so far this year. But in most measures of economic health, including per capita income, poverty rates and educational attainment, Indiana is worse off than Michigan.

“So it seems awfully strange that (Michigan Gov. Rick) Snyder, a data geek, would pick Indiana as his economic model. Indiana is the antithesis of what Snyder says he wants for Michigan — better jobs, higher incomes and a more highly educated work force.”

Really? With all due respect to our neighbors to the north, I’ll take Indiana’s financial situation over Michigan’s any day.

Let’s see, a $2 billion state surplus, a phasing out of the inheritance tax, reduction in corporate income taxes, and now the big debate is turning into whether the state should cut income taxes 10 percent. Yes, that sounds like a state that is in decline.

But let’s go back to Haglund’s point about right to work. He argues that because Indiana has such rock bottom economic indicators, there’s no reason for Michigan to adopt RTW. I would argue just the opposite, that those indicators were just another reason to adopt the measure.

According to the Indiana Economic Development Corp., Indiana’s passage of RTW has been a major factor in dozens of companies locating here.

The IDEC says that since the legislature passed RTW, nearly 100 companies — 93, to be exact — have expressed an interest in coming to Indiana. And out of those 93, 67 are in final negotiations, and more than two dozen have signed on the dotted line.

And in case you were wondering, those are not hamburger-flipping jobs, but real jobs not only paying real wages but on

average paying $2,000 to $3,000 more annually than the state average.

So where are these depressed wages right to work was supposed to bring? Maybe they are out there somewhere, but I haven’t seen any evidence of them.

One thing I will be looking for is a report due this spring from the Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding the number of employees who belong to a union in Indiana. In 2011, the number of Hoosiers who were members of a union was 302,000 or about 11.2 percent of the workforce. That number is relatively steady, as it was 10.9 percent the year before.

At its peak in 1989, union membership in Indiana was at 21 percent, a record high in the modern era. Union participation has dropped by more than 200,000 people since I had a jheri curl in college — and that was before RTW got here, so the new figures will be worth watching.

Michigan also will be worth watching as our neighbor to the north experiences what we are here in Indiana. I want them to do well, but not too well. Just well enough so I can send Mr. Haglund an email that says “I told you so.”

Abdul Hakim-Shabazz is an attorney and the editor and publisher of IndyPolitics.Org. He is also a frequent contributor to numerous Indiana media outlets.

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