Indiana’s Senate yesterday passed—and Governor Mitch Daniels (R) signed—the state’s long-awaited right-to-work law, making it the 23rd state in the nation and the first state in the union-heavy Rust Belt to give workers the right to choose whether or not to pay union dues. Meanwhile, 1,700 miles away, Arizona is considering a bill that would restore voter control over government by, among other measures, stripping government unions of their collective bargaining power.
Indiana’s move is a victory for the state’s workers—and the state’s economy. Now Hoosiers cannot be forced to pay union dues just to keep their job. This freedom makes union organizers a lot less aggressive, which attracts businesses investment. Heritage’s James Sherk explains that in counties in right-to-work states the share of manufacturing jobs is one-third higher than in adjacent counties in non–right-to-work states.
Unions, however, bitterly oppose Right-to-Work: it costs them money. They do not want workers dissatisfied with their union representation to stop paying dues. That means less money in their coffers. Sherk writes that Right-to-Work will allow Indiana’s working families to save $18 million a year in previously forced dues.
As Indiana makes its right-to-work move, Arizona—already a right-to-work state—is taking a significant step in restoring voter control over public policy and saving taxpayers money. The Tucson Citizen reports on the measures the state legislature is considering:
Senate Bill 1485, sponsored by Sen. Rick Murphy, R-Phoenix, would ban collective bargaining in government.
Three other bills also tackle the issue. They would: ban withholdings of any portion of workers’ wages to pay for labor dues; immediately ban third-party deductions from employee paychecks without annual authorization; and require government employees to do government—not union—business while on taxpayer time.
The AFL-CIO is already shouting down the effort, calling Arizona the “New Wisconsin” and warning that the measures “would wipe out public-sector unions in our state.” However, the reality is that Arizona is taking measures that bring some common sense to the state’s public policy. Collective bargaining in government means that the voter’s elected representatives do not have final say on spending or policy decisions. Instead elected representatives must come to agreement with government unions before deciding public policy — leaving voters in the cold. As recently as 1959 the AFL-CIO agreed that this was undemocratic. Government unions negotiate contracts that benefit them at the public’s expense. But government should serve the public, not the other way around.
Wisconsin saw this as a problem, with union contracts swelling to untenable costs, putting the state in dire fiscal straits. Arizonans, too, are rightfully concerned about their future — for them, under-funded government employee pensions are a serious problem, with only 78 percent of the state’s liabilities covered for current employees and retirees. And those types of costly benefits are oftentimes won at the behest of the government union special interest groups, regardless of the state’s ability to foot the bill.
Despite the recession being over, unemployment still remains high, economic recovery remains slow, and states and local governments are facing busted budgets that are out of control. It’s no surprise that states like Indiana are seeking to improve their job-creating climate and that states like Arizona are trying to find ways to prevent more destructive spending in the future. Giving workers freedom in their workplaces — and voters control over their government — is a significant step forward.