Hilgemann: Wisconsin Should Embrace Prosperity
Wisconsin Should Embrace Prosperity
By Luke Hilgemann
Wisconsinites must have had flashbacks looking at the headlines coming out of Michigan. Instead of the Badger State being front and center in the latest union battle, our neighbor to the east took our place, as the Legislature there voted to implement a right-to-work law.
Why did Michigan decide to join Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana as Midwestern states that are facing union strife? In a word: prosperity.
In a state such as Michigan, where unemployment has been at or near double digits for years, leaders decided to shake up the status quo and embrace bold, job-creating reform. That reform came in the form of legislation often referred to as right-to-work.
Right-to-work gives workers the freedom to decide how to allocate their hard-earned money. In states such as Wisconsin, if a company is unionized, it’s usually the case that every employee must either join the union or pay union dues.
Why should Wisconsin embrace workplace freedom? Simply put: more jobs. Right-to-work states enjoy a lower unemployment rate than do forced unionization states; 7.8% vs. 8.5%, respectively. Right-to-work states created more jobs than non-right-to-work states. From 2000 to 2010, 125,000 jobs were created by right-to-work states while 4 million jobs were lost in non-right-to-work states.
Workplace freedom attracts both workers and businesses. In the short time since Indiana embraced workplace freedom in February, 45 companies have contacted the Indiana Economic Development Corp. to say that this new law will factor into their decision on where to locate future projects.
Twenty-four states now allow workers the freedom to choose if they want to join and pay dues or operate outside the union structure. And let’s not forget union members in right-to-work states will still be able to be union members if they choose. These laws change nothing for folks who want to be union members.
So why did Michigan have 15,000 protesters at its state Capitol after trying to pass this law? The protests got so violent that an Americans for Prosperity tent got knocked down with people inside of it and a Fox News commentator, Steven Crowder, was assaulted. These protests erupted because some employees now will have the choice to not be a member of the union and not pay dues. And there is the answer: lost revenue for the union leadership.
Wisconsin already has partial right-to-work – the Wisconsin collective bargaining reforms in 2011 gave right-to-work to public employees but, unfortunately, many union members in the private sector are still forced to pay dues. All eyes are now focused on Wisconsin to see if we will extend this freedom to private-sector employees.
Soon we will be facing a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting jobs to our state. We are flanked by two right-to-work states, Michigan and Iowa, and just a short distance from a third, Indiana. As companies look to start, grow or relocate to the Midwest, they may well choose one of these three states over Wisconsin. Our business and tax climate are improving, but we need to continue to fight to improve our economy. Full right-to-work may very well be the key to moving forward.
Wisconsin’s leaders may be wary of picking another fight with the unions. But this can’t be the reason for not choosing this policy. Americans for Prosperity will be on the front lines of this battle to educate the public on the importance of these laws and how they can benefit our state. There are still many myths to tackle, but the positive evidence continues to pile up.
Gov. Scott Walker’s bold reforms showed us what can happen when public officials have the courage to make tough choices. The protests and recalls were a difficult chapter for our state, but with the results from those decisions continuing to lead to more savings and prosperity for state taxpayers, it’s clear that we cannot, we must not and we will not back down from making these tough decisions.
Despite the intimidation and threats that were on full display in Michigan, the path to a better and more prosperous Wisconsin is clear: We must give all workers the right to choose.
Luke Hilgemann is the Wisconsin state director of Americans for Prosperity.