This spring, Missouri came tantalizingly close to becoming America’s 26th Right to Work state. In May, H.B. 116, a measure prohibiting forced union dues and fees as a condition of employment, was approved by lopsided majorities in both chambers of the Show-Me State’s Legislature in Jefferson City.
However, on June 3, H.B. 116 fell prey to the veto pen of union-label Democrat Gov. Jay Nixon. Mr. Nixon’s campaigns have raked in a total of $4.6 billion in cash alone from Big Labor, not counting additional millions in hidden, forced dues-funded “in-kind” support.
Since the veto was issued, the conventional wisdom in Missouri has been that Right to Work supporters will lack sufficient legislative votes to override it. This may indeed prove to be correct. But freedom-loving citizens are now doing everything they can to sway sufficient numbers of wavering solons to switch to a pro-Right to Work stance to make it possible for them to prevail in the House and the Senate in September, when H.B. 116 veto override votes may occur.
And Lt. Governor Peter Kinder (R) is one of the elected officials who have heeded numerous constituent requests to speak out publicly in support of efforts to overcome Mr. Nixon’s opposition and protect employees’ Right to Work whether or not they choose to bankroll a union.
‘I Believe Right to Work Will Help Missouri Attract and Retain . . . Family-Supporting Jobs’
On July 6, Mr. Kinder publicly expressed his desire to participate in a public debate with Mr. Nixon or Democrat Attorney General Chris Koster (another Right to Work foe), or both politicians, regarding whether mandatory union dues and fees ought to be abolished in Missouri.
In his brief statement regarding his desire to have a formal debate, Mr. Kinder first expressed his view that H.B. 116 would benefit Missouri economically:
I believe Right to Work will help Missouri attract and retain the family-supporting jobs we need for our state to thrive. We are at an economic disadvantage because, unlike six of our neighboring states, we do not have a Right to Work law.
Age-segregated state population data regularly published by the U.S. Census Bureau and updated late last month furnish strong support for Mr. Kinder’s contention that compulsory unionism is suppressing the creation and retention of “family-supporting jobs” in Missouri.
The Census data show that, nationwide, the U.S. school-age population (five to 17 years old) grew by roughly 500,000, or 0.9%, from 2004 to 2014. In every state, the 5-17 year-old contingent is growing, if it is growing at all, far more slowly than other age groups. For example, the 2004-2014 nationwide population increase for Americans aged 65 and over was 27.4%!
From 2004 to 2014, Forced-Unionism States’ Total School-Age Population Fell by 1.11 Million
Although nationwide growth in K-12 population over the past decade was under 1%, in 16 states the gain was 6% or more. Fifteen (Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wyoming) have one thing in common: a Right to Work law protecting employees from forced union dues. And even Colorado, the sole exception, does not permit compulsory union dues or fees in the public sector.
All of the 13 states suffering the steepest declines in school-age population over the past decade (Alaska, California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont) lacked Right to Work protections prior to 2013, and only Michigan has a Right to Work law today. These 13 states saw school-age population losses ranging from 4.4% (Alaska) to 13.2% (Rhode Island).
In the aggregate, the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books for the entire period from 2004 to 2014 saw their K-12 contingent increase by 1.84 million, or 8.9%. Meanwhile, the 26 states that lacked Right to Work protections for the whole time experienced a school-age population decline of 1.11 million, or 3.8%. (Indiana and Michigan, whose Right to Work laws respectively took effect in 2012 and 2013, are excluded. Wisconsin, whose Right to Work law was adopted only this year, is counted as a forced-unionism state.)
The contrast between Right to Work and forced-unionism states is almost equally stark if one focuses only on Missouri and the nine states with which it shares a border.
In the six Right to Work states (Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Tennessee) that neighbor Missouri, the total population aged 5-17 rose by a total of 262,000, or 7.7%, from 2004 to 2014. None of these states experienced an increase of less than 5.0%.
But in Missouri and its two forced-unionism neighbor states (Illinois and Kentucky), the school-age population fell by an aggregate 123,000. In Missouri alone, the K-12 population rose by a scant 0.5%
Right to Work States Are More Attractive Places in Which to Live and, Particularly, to Raise Children
Why does the number of schoolchildren keep rising in states that prohibit Big Labor from forcing workers to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment, even as it falls in states that do not protect employees from compulsory unionism?
The reason is not immigration from abroad, which affects Right to Work states and non-Right to Work states more or less equally.
In fact, forced-unionism California, New York, and New Jersey have together endured a net population loss of 702,000 school-age children since 2004, despite the fact that they rank #1, #2, and #3 for share of population that is foreign-born, respectively.
By far the most important reason that 15 of the 16 top-ranking states for growth in population aged 5-17 are Right to Work states is that parents and prospective parents are moving in droves to such states.
They obviously find that these states, with their generally higher cost of living-adjusted incomes, to be more attractive places in which to live, and, particularly, to raise children.
While a desire to foster the creation and retention of “family-supporting jobs” in Missouri is an excellent reason for supporting efforts to make it the 26th state to ban forced union dues, it is not the most compelling reason.
No Worker Should Be Forced to Join or Pay Dues to a Union
As Mr. Kinder explained in his statement challenging Mr. Nixon and Mr. Koster to a debate over Right to Work, the fundamental reason for adopting this reform is that it’s morally wrong for public policy to force any employee to bankroll a private organization in order to get or keep a job:
Right to Work, at its core, is about fairness. If a worker in our state does not want to pay union fees, [he or she] should not be required to do so just to get or keep a job. Let the unions prove their worth and workers will gladly pay for membership.
The individual employee’s freedom to support a union financially, regardless of what his or her fellow employees think or the employer thinks, and not be fired as a consequence, has long been protected in Missouri and every other state. And union-label politicians like Mr. Nixon and Mr. Koster agree with Right to Work supporters that the individual right to join and bankroll a union ought to be protected.
What Big Labor and its allies in government can’t explain is their opposition to equal protection for the employee’s personal freedom NOT to bankroll a union. And that’s a key reason why union bosses’ well-heeled campaign to stop the spread of Right to Work protections for employees is ultimately doomed to fail.
Stan Greer is the National Institute for Labor Relations Research’s senior research associate. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 703-321-9606. Nothing here is to be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress or any state legislature.
 See Connor D. Wolf, “Missouri Lt. Gov. Challenges His Boss to Debate Right-to-Work,” Daily Caller, July 6, 2015.
 See U.S. Census Bureau, “Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Selected Age Groups by Sex for the United States, States, Counties, and Puerto Rico Commonwealth and Municipios: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014 at http://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml on the Census Bureau web site. See also U.S. Census Bureau, Statistical Abstract of the United States (2006 edition), Table No. 21, “Resident Population by Age and State: 2004.”
 See Statistical Abstract of the United States (2015 edition), Table 36, “Native and Foreign-Born Population by State: 2012.”
 See Stan Greer, “All of the Six Highest-Ranking States For 2014 Cost of Living-Adjusted Disposable Income Per Capita Have Right to Work Laws,” April 2, 2015. This blog post for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research web site is available at: http://www.nilrr.org/2015/04/02/all-of-the-six-highest-ranking-states-for-2014-cost-of-living-adjusted-disposable-income-per-capita-have-right-to-work-laws/