When they are making propagandistic economic arguments against Right to Work laws and legislation, AFL-CIO union officials nd their allies routinely pretend either that there is no difference whatsoever between the aggregate cost of living for states with such statutes on the books and states that lack them, or that any difference is minimal.
In fact, as I showed in a February 20 Institute blog post, in 2013 the overall cost of living for the 26 forced unionism states was a hefty 21% higher than the average cost of living for the 24 Right to Work states. My source was an interstate cost of living index calculated by the nonpartisan Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC).
Interestingly enough, one day after I posted by analysis of MERIC’s 50-state cost-of-living data for 2013, the AFL-CIO web site cited another source also showing that the average cost of living is substantially higher in forced-unionism states.
Of course, AFL-CIO Now contributor Kenneth Quinnell’s blog post was not intended to demonstrate that living standards are higher in Right to Work states. Rather, Quinnell’s aim, in his own words, was to show how many hours “a minimum-wage worker would have to work in each state to afford a two-bedroom apartment at a fair market rent” while still having 70% of his or her income left over for non-rent expenses. (Quinnell’s entire post is available at the link below.)
Quinnell’s source was the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a Big Labor-friendly think tank that gets financial support from the AFL-CIO hierarchy and even invited AFL-CIO Vice President Arlene Holt Baker to address its 2012 convention. Obviously, the NLIHC can’t be plausibly accused of harboring a bias against forced-unionism states.
But the NLIHC data show that, even though a disproportionately large share of forced-unionism states have adopted statewide statutes mandating a nominal minimum wage that is higher than the national minimum, employees who make no more than what their employer is legally required to pay are on average far worse off in forced-unionism states. In other words, forced-unionism states’ higher cost of living hurts minimum-wage workers, just like almost everyone else.
Specifically, 10 of the 11 states where, according to the NLIHC, rental housing is least affordable for minimum-wage earners lack Right to Work laws. But 11 of the 16 states where rental housing is most affordable for minimum-wage earners are Right to Work states.
In the past, a few apologists for Big Labor have tried to argue that only the highest earners are negatively affected by the high cost of living in forced-unionism states. But the annual analysis of rental costs for minimum-wage earners in the 50 states furnished by NLIHC should suffice in itself to refute this facially implausible contention.