New Hampshire Needs Right-to-Work

Today the Union Leader ran a story on the hearings for House Bill 474 which would make New Hampshire a right-to-work state.  Right-to-work simply says that an employee does not have to be a dues-paying member of a union in as a condition of employment.

This is an important debate since no New England state is a right-to-work state.  In fact, the closest state is Virginia.  This puts New Hampshire, and all of New England, at a distinct competitive disadvantage.  Richard Vedder, the Edwin and Ruth Kennedy Distinguished Professor of Economics at Ohio University, has an excellent article in the CATO Journal which describes the national movement of people and economic growth toward Right-to-work states (pdf).  He concludes:

“The proportion of Americans living in right-to-work states has risen noticeably over the years, and only a small part of that is driven by new states adopting such laws.  People move in extraordinary numbers to right-to-work states from states where union pressure has prevented the adoption of such laws.  Moreover, the greater flexibility for workers and employers offered where right-to-work exists has contributed to higher rates of economic growth rates in the right-to-work environment.  Although the United States seems to have been in roughly a stable political equilibrium regarding these laws in recent decades, if the past trends toward the right-to-work population growing in a relative sense persists while union membership continues to fall as a proportion of the labor force, a threshold point should be passed where the political equilibrium should tip toward making right-to-work laws universal for the entire American population.”

Additionally, my own research on migration patterns in other states has shown this very pattern of people moving from non-right-to-work states to right-to-work states.  I have done studies in four states that all have very high union membership rates (averaged between 1995 and 2007):  Illinois (7th), Minnesota (8th), Rhode Island (9th) and Connecticut (13th).

  1. In the Illinois migration study (pdf), folks moved to where union membership averaged 42.74 percent lower than in Illinois–to 10.3 percent of the labor force from 18 percent.
  2. In the Minnesota migration study (pdf), folks moved to where union membership averaged 49.99 percent lower than in Minnesota–to 9 percent of the labor force from 18 percent.
  3. In the Rhode Island migration study (pdf), folks moved to where union membership averaged 56.73 percent lower than in Rhode Island–to 7.5 percent of the labor force from 17.3 percent.
  4. In the Connecticut migration study, folks moved to where union membership averaged 50.63 percent lower than in Connecticut–to 8.2 percent of the labor force from 16.6 percent.

I’ve also done one study on the reverse in Oklahoma which recently became a right-to-work state in 2001.  In the Oklahoma migration study, folks moved from states to Oklahoma where union membership was 83.9 percent higher than in Oklahoma–to 7.8 percent from 14.3 percent.

While New Hampshire has been a net in-migrate state for many years, the evidence is clear that New Hampshire would be an even greater destination state if it were a right-to-work state.

Update: The Union Leader reports that House Bill 474 has passed 221-131.