Right-to-Work Would Generate Opportunity for Delaware

By Erica York and Michael Slabinski

Workers should have the right to decide for themselves whether or not they want to join or fund a union—without fear of losing their jobs. A new, local right-to-work ordinance introduced in Sussex County would do just that: Protect worker freedom while ensuring an economic environment that welcomes new investment and job growth. If adopted, this much needed change would brighten the economic outlook and generate new opportunities for individuals and businesses alike.

At the core, right-to-work ordinances and legislation enable individuals to choose for themselves whether to be represented by a union without jeopardizing their ability to be employed.

Currently, Delaware’s economic outlook ranks 37th out of the 50 states in Rich States, Poor States. High tax burdens, excessive debt service costs and forced-union status are creating a drag on the economy and the opportunities available to taxpayers. By adopting a right-to-work ordinance, Sussex County could begin to reverse the economic malaise experienced statewide and usher in a new era of opportunity.

Similar right-to-work legislation aimed at protecting worker freedom has been sweeping counties and states across the nation. Since the beginning of 2012, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Missouri have adopted right-to-work. Kentucky, in particular, passed statewide legislation after more than 10 counties passed their own right-to-work ordinances. Though the local right-to-work ordinances were challenged in court, they were upheld in 2016 by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. As a result, Kentucky has amassed $6 billion in planned capital investment, which will bring 9,500 jobs.

Following in the footsteps of Kentucky counties, Sussex County has the opportunity to be the first region northeast of Virginia to join the worker freedom movement. Not only would right-to-work generate benefits for The First State, it could also generate a wave of worker freedom in the northeast, bringing a much needed economic revival with it.

Overall, right-to-work states enjoy more impressive growth in population, employment, personal income, gross domestic product and even tax revenue. In a 2016 report of economic performance of right-to-work states versus forced-union states, right-to-work states population increased twice as fast as forced-union states, personal income grew by more than 11 percentage points higher, and state and local tax revenue increased by nearly 5 percentage points higher. Evidence clearly demonstrates that worker freedom boosts economic growth potential.

Under right-to-work, families and businesses can adapt much more rapidly to the needs of the market and to changing conditions. For example, job creators are free to bolster productivity by offering enhanced merit pay or other benefits that are typically prohibited under most union contracts. When relevant factors like cost of living are considered—and not just cherry picked statistics—evidence indicates that states with right-to-work laws have higher personal income than in states without. There’s nothing magic about it. Giving workers more choice and more freedom is better for citizens, workers, businesses and the state.

Improvements in these areas would be a welcome change for Delaware, where economic growth is currently projected to remain slower than most states. As has been pointed out, actual real wages have been decreasing in Delaware. While policymakers in Dover continue the tax-and-spend trend that is pushing residents out of the state, leaders in Sussex County are right to demonstrate respect for individual choice and economic competitiveness.

Fewer forced-union states and counties remain, and they are witnessing an exodus of people, businesses, employment and capital to regions that protect worker freedom. Sussex County’s right-to-work ordinance would provide a clear advantage in promoting economic development, competing with surrounding areas and increasing worker choice.

Erica York is a tax policy analyst at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

Michael Slabinski is a legislative analyst at the American City County Exchange.