Sen. Wayne Wallingford: Is “Right to Work” Right for Missouri?

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Week of July 23, 2018

Is ‘Right to Work’ Right for Missouri?


Many of my constituents have requested a reprint of a Capitol Report that I issued on February 1, 2017. This is an edited version of that Capitol Report.

Is Right to Work right for Missouri? As my constituent, I’m sure you are already aware that I never substitute rhetoric for scholarship. I’m always eager for the details. So let’s start by looking at the data.

I recently received a handwritten letter from a constituent in which he voiced his opinion on Right to Work. Before I begin let me say that I urge all of you to contact my office and provide me with your opinion on pending legislation. Although time constraints don’t always allow me to respond to every piece of correspondence, I do read them all and take your opinion seriously. This constituent was asking me to oppose Senate Bill 19 because ”Right to Work laws drive down wages…and makes it harder for working families to find jobs.” He also asked me to look at other states because if I did, I would find that workers in Right to Work states “earn lower wages.”

Let’s begin by reviewing the data, because if what my constituent alleges is true, they are all good reasons to vote against Right to Work legislation. Just to let you know, I have been diligently studying both sides of this issue for the past four years. I want to make Missouri more appealing to businesses. More businesses means more economic development, which means more jobs, higher wages and a strong middle class. Good things, right? If being a Right to Work state does not accomplish this, or worse, has the opposite effect, then it would be unwise to change Missouri’s current labor laws.

The data shows that Missouri is being left behind by its neighbors. Right to Work states have shown a 42.6 percent gain in employment during a recent ten year period according to the

Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that same period, non-Right to Work states gained only 18.8 percent. Even worse, Missouri has lagged behind every midwestern state economically and has had a 1.6 percent decline in private sector payroll. Right to Work states created jobs 2.5 times faster than states without Right to Work and have 1.3 % lower unemployment rates than non-Right to Work states.

A wide array of government data shows that long-term economic growth is substantially faster in the seven Right to Work states neighboring Missouri than in the Show-Me State.

Also, for a recent ten-year period census data revealed that 5 million people migrated from non-Right to Work states to Right to Work states. During that same period, Missouri lost 12,000 residents. This migration out of Missouri was a contributing factor to a loss of a congressional seat, with the end result of Missouri having a smaller voice in Washington D.C.

I would think that everyone would agree that manufacturing jobs are important for a strong middle class and higher wages. The Center for Business and Economic Research found that the top states for new manufacturing jobs are Right to Work states. When it comes to new manufacturing jobs, Missouri isn’t just fighting to bring jobs into the state. We are fighting just to be on the list of states manufacturers are considering.

Now let’s examine the assertion that workers in Right to Work states “earn lower wages.” In fact, on the surface, this statement is true.

However, let’s dig deeper and examine this further to see how well it holds up under a thorough analysis. The statistics used in this argument do not take into account costs of living. I know about the cost of living in other states since I’ve lived in California, Illinois and Pennsylvania. All are high cost of living states. Believe me when I say, you do not want the cost of living of those states to migrate to Missouri. A dollar in those states does not go nearly as far as the same dollar spent in Missouri. Once you factor in costs of living, Right to Work laws have little effect on private sector wages. As a result, Right to Work states typically have below average costs of living. When Right to Work states are compared to non-Right to Work states, per capita personal incomes are 4.1 percent higher in Right to Work states.

Another question: Is union membership hurt when a state becomes a Right to Work state? The United Steelworkers in Indiana thought their membership would drop when their state became a Right to Work state in 2012. Union leaders braced for a 40 percent drop in membership. However, five years later the union president stated that of their 3,000 members the union lost no more than 70 members. This represents a little more than a 2 percent drop in membership, so it would seem that the majority of members still feel the union does a good job of representing their best interests. In Michigan, Right to Work came into law in 2013 and since then, total union membership has remained relatively unchanged. In fact, unions in some Right to Work states have actually seen union membership increase.

Now let’s get back to the original question. Is Right to Work right for Missouri? Based on the best available data, I believe when the question is reviewed with a fair and open mind you find Right to Work states have stronger levels of economic growth, attract more new businesses and increase job and wage growth. All of which are very good for Missouri, employees and businesses.

For these reasons, I believe Right to Work is right for Missouri and that is why I voted to make Missouri the twenty-eighth Right to Work state. Examine the data yourself and see how you would have voted on this important issue. However, never substitute rhetoric for scholarship.

As always, I urge you to contact me with any questions or concerns you have about state government.

Contact Me

I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions, and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Wayne Wallingford, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Jefferson City, MO 65101, or email at or

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