Lawmakers hear right-to-work comparative study

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In Sunday’s Joint Standing Committee on the Judiciary meeting, WVU economics researcher John Deskins reported his findings in relation to the differences between right-to-work and non-right-to-work states.

States with right-to-work promote a worker’s right not to be required to join a labor union.

Deskins claimed that he was neither for nor against the laws, and wanted to produce raw statistics. He said there was a lot of data to examine.

“What we have now is an interesting laboratory. If one of two states had right-to-work and 48 other didn’t (have it) it would be hard to really get a sense of how (the law) affects economic outcomes,” he explained. “But we’re in a good situation because it’s half and half. Twenty-five states have right-to-work and 25 states (don’t have it).”

West Virginia is one of the states that has no such right-to-work law. Deskins did note certain trends in his study.

“Output has grown a lot faster in our Right to Work states compared to non-Right to Work states,” Deskins said. “What we’re estimating is Right to Work lowers memberships about one-fifth; from 10 percent average down to about 8.1 percent.”

West Virginia AFL-CIO President Kenny  Perdue spoke against right-to-work, pointing out that it hurts states’ economies more than it helps.

“You may not realize these laws actually hurt economies,” he said. “Working people in right-to-work states can earn an average of less than nearly $6,000 (compared with states without the law).”

The study found that employment growth in manufacturing, construction and mining sectors has specifically been stronger in Right to Work states compared to non-right-to-work states.

Deskins’ opinion was that West Virginia, if it were to implement right-to-work, would see similar trends to other states that have it in place.

“After looking at 48 states over two decades, we find that right-to-work does decrease union membership by about one-fifth, it does increase employment growth and it does increase output growth.”

Senate President and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Cole thought the study showed that West Virginia should implement right-to-work laws.

“For far too long, the status quo in West Virginia has held us back and prevented the kind of economic growth we’ve seen in other parts of our region,” Cole said. “This study should encourage us to break from the status quo and fully pursue making West Virginia a right-to-work state. We should eliminate any barriers we have to making our state an attractive place for job creation.”

House Speaker Tim Armstead also responded to the study results.

“On the first day of the legislative session this year, we established a process to ensure we would have independent, unbiased economic analyses of major initiatives that come before the Legislature, and that’s what this report represents,” Armstead said in a news release. “This study appears to support what we’ve been saying for some time–that a right-to-work law would certainly be advantageous to job growth in our state and something we should take very seriously.”

The closest state to West Virginia that does have right-to-work laws is Virginia. Ohio and Kentucky have had similar discussions on whether to implement such laws.

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