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LETTER: Poverty rises in right-to-work states

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From: Steve Jasper


Received: Dec. 23

Recently The Republic published an editorial extolling the virtues of the proposed “right- to-work” legislation that Gov. Daniels hopes to pass in the next session of the Indiana General Assembly. Quoting from the editorial, “Additional jobs and investment mean more revenue, more opportunities and a higher quality of life.”

Easily available data, mostly from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clearly demonstrates that the citizens of right-to-work states are not experiencing the benefits that proponents promise.

By any number of relevant measures, the 22 right-to-work states do not fare nearly as well as the 28 states without right-to-work legislation. Is it not reasonable to expect that “additional jobs” and “more opportunities” would result in a lower unemployment rate?

However, if we look back at the past four quarters, seven of the 10 states with the highest unemployment rate are right-to-work states.

What happens if we broaden the scope just a bit and look at personal income? For the year 2010, eight of the 10 states with the highest per capita income were non-right-to-work states. And at the bottom of the list, seven of the 10 states with the lowest per capita income were right-to-work states.

For an even more inclusive picture of economic vitality, what about looking at the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the states in 2010? If we do that, we find that eight of the 10 states with the highest GDP per capita are non-right-to-work states. And when we look at the percent change in GDP in 2010, we discover that of the 10 states with the largest percentage increase, seven were non-right-to-work states. And conversely, seven of the 10 states with the lowest percentage increase (or with a loss) were right-to-work states.

Interestingly enough, Indiana had the third-highest percentage increase in GDP, which runs counter to the editorial’s contention that we cannot compete with other states.

Let’s think about the “higher quality of life” that proponents say would be the result of passing right-to-work legislation. If we consider the federal poverty level, seven of the 10 states with the highest percentage of their citizens in poverty are right-to-work states.

Finally, it is not at all surprising that 12 of the 15 states with the lowest average hourly wage for production workers are right-to-work states. But that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Clearly, it is not the average worker who benefits from right-to-work legislation. More revenue? Perhaps, but if you want to find it, don’t look in the pockets of working Americans.

As we head into this next legislative session, let’s at least demand some truth in advertising. It is not really “right-to-work” legislation that we are talking about. It is “right-to-pay-workers-less” legislation.


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