The 2012 presidential election is going to be about jobs. That’s why it makes sense to look at the 22 right-to-work (RTW) states that nourish them. No one in America should be forced to join a union as a condition of employment, but today that occurs in 28 states. It’s time politicians are held to task for not giving their citizens RTW.
In January, Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder did a study for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce showing that between 1977 and 2008, employment grew 100% in RTW states while average growth in the nation was 71%, and growth in non-RTW states was only 56.5%. Per capita income growth was 62.3% in RTW work states, 54.7% in the nation, and 52.8% in non-RTW states.
New England is a non-RTW region. But New Hampshire could become the 23rd RTW state. Coupled with its lack of income tax, RTW laws could make it the Hong Kong of the region. On the left side of the country, the entire west coast is a non-RTW region too. So from an export standpoint, it makes sense to look beyond the two coasts, except for New Hampshire, especially if you’re looking for work.
In his piece in Forbes “The Rise of the Third Coast: The Gulf Region’s Ascendancy in U.S.,” Joel Kotkin writes: “In our rankings of the fastest-growing job markets in the country, six Gulf cities made the top 50: Houston, Corpus Christi and Brownsville, in Texas; New Orleans; and Gulfport-Biloxi and Pascagoula, in Mississippi. In contrast, just one Pacific port, Anchorage, Alaska, and one small Atlantic port, Portsmouth, N.H., made the cut.”
Many factors contribute to the explosive growth in the “Third Coast,” such as politics, demographics, energy, emerging trade patterns, new technologies, and the widening of the Panama Canal. But I would make RTW laws reason number one. RTW is the law of the land in these states. It is the glue for a powerful pro-business coalition that allows motivated workers and companies to stick to business—which is what they want to do.
Pension Reform Rhode Island–Style: Binding Arbitration
In politics, as in many things, timing is everything. Such was the case last week in Rhode Island when the Senate passed binding arbitration for wages and benefits for teachers, in essence taking control from local school boards and giving it to a third-party, non-elected special interest arbitrator. House Speaker Gordon Fox has decided not to hold a vote in the closing hours of this session. But stay tuned, as I expect this to be near the top of his agenda as pension reform heats up this fall.
In a time when most states are going in the complete opposite direction by giving more power to the taxpayer, leave it to Rhode Island and the labor committees of both the House and Senate to push this last-minute union gift to a Senate vote. Rhode Island state Senate majority leader Teresa Paiva-Weed and her gang of 20 voting for binding arbitration are blatantly handing the keys of local teacher contracts over to the unions.
Let’s not forget, arbitrators are not hired to determine whether or not a town can afford the contracts. They are hired to come up with what they feel is a fair resolution. What’s fair to them may not be affordable to towns. And keep in mind that the union leaders who help hire arbitrators from a list of names are in charge of rehiring them in the future for other cases. So job security is unquestionably in the back of the arbitrators’ minds when they make a final decision.
Taking the power of the purse away from the taxpayer isn’t really a concern to the Rhode Island Senate gang of 20. Their concern is getting reelected, and if the union money stops, then their chances of reelection go right along with it. Stay tuned. There’s a good probability this will eventually reach a House vote, especially with pension reform looming. One way for unions to counter any pension reform on existing contracts is to do an end run around it by putting the tough decisions into the hands of an arbitrator—a perfect way for politicians to clean their hands of the messy work of pension reform.