RTW: Comparing Michigan to other states

7:42 PM, Dec 11, 2012   |    comments
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LANSING, Mich (WZZM) -- There's a lot of argument about what Right-to-Work will do for Michigan jobs and unemployment.

WZZM 13 took a look at other states with the law to see how they've fared in those categories.

The 23 states with RTW range broadly when you consider unemployment numbers, jobs, and industry. Look no further than the differences between North Dakota and Nevada. They show it's nearly impossible to compare apples to apples.

If you're looking for a way to compare a Michigan Right-to-Work law with another state's, Todd Steen, Professor of Economics at Hope College, says look no further than Indiana, where it passed earlier this year.

"There's a lot of what's happened in Indiana since they've implemented RTW and gained jobs. Alabama too," he said.

Indiana's unemployment rate in January was 8.7%; it's now 8%.

Michigan's January rate was 9%, it's now 9.1%.
As for job growth, Indiana added 7,700 private sector jobs in October, the largest gain since May, according to the Indiana Employment Report.

"It's always hard to say there's a consensus, but I think it's the general opinion that this has been positive for Indiana," said Steen.

If you say Indiana is too new to the game, take Oklahoma, which turned Right-to-Work about 10 years ago. According to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce 2011, the number of businesses and jobs entering the state is actually down a third, compared to when it was a forced union state.

Overall, it's hard to compare the 23 RTW states because industries vary. Michigan and Indiana are large manufacturing states. Texas, the single largest RTW state, Is big in oil and gas, and Florida and Nevada have large tourism industries.

"Certaintly RTW legislation has been prominent in places where unions haven't been as popular, that's why this is such a big deal here in Michigan," he said.

What might be easiest to compare is wages. According to a report by the Economic Policy Institute, RTW laws lower wages for union and non-union workers by an average of $1,500, after accounting for the cost of living in each state. Steen says union workers make about 15% more than people who aren't in a union.

The argument is that a RTW law will bring in more jobs, and help lower unemployment in Michigan.  

Right now, four of the 10 states with high unemployment rates are RTW. Among them are North Carolina and Nevada, both of which have unemployment rates higher than Michigan's 9.1%. 
So is right to work right for Michigan? Bottom line is it depends on who you ask.


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