Greg Schneider: Right to Work = Economic Growth





[Dr. Greg Schneider is a Senior Fellow with the Kansas Policy Institute and an associate professor of history at Emporia State University. He has been published widely and is the author or editor of three books on the history of conservatism.]

From 1935 until 1947, it was legal for closed shops to exist. If you wanted a job in a unionized factory, you had to join the union. Congress then passed the Taft-Hartley Act, restricting the power of union political action committees and allowing states to pass right-to-work laws. Taft-Hartley has been the law governing labor relations ever since.

Labor unions have been trying to repeal Taft-Hartley since 1947, but they have been unable to do so as a coalition of Southern Democrats and Republicans blocked repeal. Sherman’s new legislation can be seen as a continuation of that cat-and-mouse game in Congress....

Unions blame right-to-work laws for their plight. But increasingly the number of union jobs declined because the companies where unions were dominant — the Big Three auto makers for instance — could not remain competitive under the old economic model. High wages, pension and health benefits hurt the ability of companies governed by the closed shop to compete. Steve Miller, chairman of Delphi Corporation (a General Motors spinoff) when it was going through bankruptcy, said the company simply couldn’t compete with its $65-per-hour “all-in” labor cost (pay and benefits for current and retired employees).


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