Buckeye Institute report supports right-to-work law in Ohio

Dayton Daily News - March 28, 2012

Jackie Borchardt

A report released Wednesday by the right-leaning Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions says Ohio could benefit from changing its union labor laws.

In the report, economist Richard Vedder argues states with right-to-work laws show higher rates of growth in income and have attracted workers while Ohio has lost them. According to Vedder, a professor at Ohio University, Ohio workers would now earn as much as $3,000 more a year if Ohio had passed a right-to-work law in 1977.

The report was released after recent events indicate Ohioans might consider right-to-work legislation, which would allow employees to opt out of paying fees associated with a union. Indiana enacted a right-to-work law earlier this year. A group called Ohioans for Workplace Freedom announced in February it would collect signatures to put a right-to-work measure on the ballot this year or in 2013. Around the same time, a Quinnipiac University Poll found 54 percent of Ohioans favored right-to-work legislation.

Amy Hanauer, executive director of Policy Matters Ohio, said Vedder is known for cherry picking data that supports his conclusions. Hanauer said a right-to-work law in Ohio would lower wages and reduce access to health insurance, which would have a more negative effect on the state’s economy.

“Access to health insurance and retirement security is part of what makes a state an appealing place to live,” Hanauer.

Economists at the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute have debunked Vedder’s claims and shown right-to-work laws cannot be linked to state unemployment rates, per capita income or job growth. They found right-to-work laws lower wages for union and non-union workers by $1,500 a year on average. For every $1 million in wage cuts, the institute argues, $850,000 less is spent in the economy.

Vedder said employers perceive it more costly to take root in a non-right-to-work state. Total employment in Ohio grew 34 percent from 1977 to 2008 compared with 71 percent nationally and 100 percent in right-to-work states, according to Vedder’s analysis, which tried to control for factors such as population growth and changes in the manufacturing industry.

Vedder said right-to-work isn’t anti-union — it would encourage unions to work harder to attract members — and cannot be compared to efforts behind Senate Bill 5, which would have abolished collective bargaining among public employees.

Dennis Willard of We Are Ohio, which fought Senate Bill 5 and has taken up the cause against right-to-work legislation, disagreed.

“This is nothing more than a continued attack on the working people, working families and the middle class,” Willard said. “This is absolutely Senate Bill 5 but even worse because Senate Bill 5 addressed the public sector and this spreads it to the private sector.”

Willard said legislators are opposed to a ballot issue in part because of the large defeat of Senate Bill 5.

At least 386,000 valid signatures must be collected to put it on a future ballot. Ohio voters rejected a right-to-work ballot issue in 1958.

Buckeye Institute report supports right-to-work law in Ohio

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