By Dr. Bob McClure
Once upon a time, workers in the United States were served by a necessary and positively transformative feature of society – collective bargaining. In times long past, pay and working conditions were so poor that union efforts were warranted in the push for greater economic prosperity for all.
Those times, thankfully, have long passed. Occupational laws, a dynamic economy and competition for business among the states have all but eliminated the rationale behind labor unions. And while most of society has recognized this, the last vestiges of union power are still clinging to their desire to remain relevant.
Franklin Roosevelt was president when Florida became the first state to embrace right-to-work laws, enshrining the concept in the state constitution in 1944. Today, 27 other states have followed Florida’s lead to create a more inviting work environment for their citizens. Employees in these 28 states are free to work without being compelled to join a union – and, more importantly, without being forced to affiliate with and support an organization that may advocate views they oppose.
Union leaders will tell you how right-to-work laws are harmful to workers and the economy. I can tell you they are wrong, and Florida is proof.
One of the highest-profile cases the Supreme Court will hear this year is Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees – a case that could change the way public sector unions operate in the United States. Some fret that the case could overturn a 40-year-old decision that allowed states without right-to-work legislation to continue requiring union fees for all employees, even those who didn’t want any part of a union.
The James Madison Institute enjoys a bird’s-eye view of a state, its workers, and its economy flourishing under a right-to-work standard. Florida’s economic prosperity should serve as a lesson for other states and their public employees. That’s why we filed an amicus brief in support of petitioner Mark Janus, whose First Amendment rights have been consistently violated by the politically-driven labor unions he has been compelled to subsidize.
Florida’s economy is extraordinarily vibrant – in fact, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University recently crowned it as No. 1 in fiscal solvency. We have increasing annual job growth rates and an unemployment rate that has fallen 16 percent faster than the national average since 2010.
In short, our right-to-work state is working. Floridians, regardless of station in life, have the freedom to pursue their dreams of economic opportunity and prosperity as they see fit — without being forced to join a union.
Other states are seeing the same progress: Consider Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana, which saw significant drops in unemployment and an influx of new businesses after implementing right-to-work laws.
Contrast this with Illinois, the home state of petitioner Mark Janus. Illinois’ economy is falling behind the national average, and job growth rates are snail-paced. Yet demanding unions have rallied together in support of the labor movement’s push to maintain its precious required fees.
A favorable ruling from the Supreme Court will give employees everywhere the same rights as those in right-to-work states. It be a monumental step forward in the effort to bring better working conditions, increased job growth, and stronger economies to more states and more American workers.
Dr. Bob McClure is president and CEO of the James Madison Institute, a conservative, free-market think tank based in Tallahassee devoted to research and education on public policy issues.