It pleases me to no end that a report published by my organization back in July of 2012 has recently become an object of such criticism and outrage among left-wing critics of “right to work.” It shows that our efforts to put “right to work” at the top of the Legislature’s policy agenda have paid off and that New Mexico may finally be on the verge of adopting some long-overdue reforms that will shake our economy out of its torpor.
Both the union-funded, Washington-based Economic Policy Institute and University of New Mexico sociology professor Tamara Kay made news recently by giving the report an “F-grade” and calling it “kindergarden math.”
To be clear, truly conclusive data are hard to come by in the social sciences. The statistical tool known as regression is useful and it was used in our 2012 report, but the ideal method would be to have two or more experiments running with New Mexico moving forward with or without a “right to work” law in place. After a given period of time you compare notes and draw conclusions. That is impossible in the real world so “proof” is elusive and debates (and name calling, apparently) continue.
But what impact do “right to work” laws have in the real world? For starters, Michigan adopted such a law in March 2013. From that time through November 2014, Michigan saw 4% payroll manufacturing job growth, beating an average of 2.8% in right-to-work states and 0.9% in non-right-to-work states, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Indiana joined the right-to-work ranks in 2012, and from March 2012 to November 2014 factory payroll employment grew 9.4% compared to 1.2% average growth for states without right-to-work laws. Data are admittedly limited due to the relatively recent adoption of these laws, but so far the results are promising.
Data out of Oklahoma which shares a border with New Mexico and adopted “right to work” back in 2001 are even more promising. In the five years preceding adoption of “right to work” (1996-2000) per-capita personal income in Oklahoma lagged the region (save New Mexico) and the national average.
In the decade following adoption of “right to work,” (2001-2010) Oklahoma led the region with per-capita personal income growth of 36% and beat the national average growth rate of 28% handily.
This does not “prove” that Oklahoma’s “right to work” effort “caused” personal income rates to jump, but our critics such as Professor Kay and EPI claim that “right to work” results in “slower job growth, lower wages, and greater income inequality.” Shouldn’t they be asked to at least make a coherent argument of their own using real-world examples and data?
And to her point on inequality, according to the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 2012 report “Pulling Apart,” New Mexico faced the greatest income inequality between top and bottom during the late 2000s. I’d like to see our critics blame New Mexico’s, as of yet non-existent, “right to work” law for that one.
Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.