Worker Freedom Ensures Economic Prosperity

Along with the rest of the nation, Pennsylvania is struggling to rebound from the recent economic turmoil. Unfortunately, being a compulsory union state puts the Commonwealth at a marked disadvantage.

Twenty-two states have a right-to-work law, protecting their workers from being coerced to join a union as a condition of employment. But Pennsylvania denies the right to reject union membership and dues payments, marginalizing workers and businesses across the state.

The benefits of living in a right-to-work state are manifold: these states typically have higher rates of growth in employment, personal income, and population.

Compared to right-to-work states, Pennsylvania and other compulsory union states rank consistently lower across several economic indicators (the Commonwealth ranks lower than even other non-right-to-work states).

The job markets in right-to-work states demonstrate remarkable growth relative to Pennsylvania, as shown by the graph above. Pennsylvania has also experienced a rise in personal income growth drastically slower than that of right-to-work states.

Contrary to myths promulgated by advocates of compulsory unionism, residents of right-to-work states have higher average incomes (adjusting for cost of living) than those in forced unionism states. Right-to-work states have also seen higher rates of growth in per-capita income from 2002-2007.
With compulsory unionism and a state and local tax burden in Pennsylvania well above the national average, it is no wonder people are moving out of the state to more promising and prosperous ones.

According to the U.S. Census, Pennsylvania lost 28,000 net residents to other states from 2000-2006. United Van Lines classifies Pennsylvania as a high “outbound” state, meaning more moves out of the state than into it. In 2007, 57% of shipments were moves out of Pennsylvania. In contrast, right-to-work states are experiencing a population influx as residents find their stronger economies appealing.

Pennsylvania can become prosperous again, but a few changes must be made to the way the state treats businesses, employers, and workers.

First, Pennsylvania needs to enact a right-to-work law, which would free all employees from union intimidation. It would also allow workers to keep more of their hard-earned money, rather than being subject to forced, automatic dues deductions. Second, the growth of government spending, regulation, and taxation must be lowered. These steps will help make Pennsylvania an attractive place to live and work once more.

# # #

Jessica Runk is a research associate with the Commonwealth Foundation (, an independent, nonprofit public policy research and educational institute based in Harrisburg.

Editor’s Note: Charts courtesy of the Mackinac Center (