by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
You may have heard that workers in right-to-work states make less money than workers in non-right-to-work states. Paul Gessing explains that this claim is true only if you ignore significant differences in the cost of living between states:
Opponents of “right to work” love to claim that it means the “right to work” for less. Indeed, it is true that median incomes are higher in “forced unionism” states than they are in “right to work” states. The average household in RTW states earned $48,324 in 2012, while its counterpart in non-RTW states earned $54,655.
But that is not the whole story. In fact, median income is not really a relevant number. What is relevant is what standard of living can be had with that median worker’s paycheck. As seen in Figure 2 [above], adjusted for cost of living, median incomes in “right to work” states are approximately $5,000 higher than those in “forced unionism” states. In other words, workers in “right to work” states enjoy higher living standards overall because their paychecks go farther. It’s the difference between working and living in high-cost New York City as opposed to lower-cost Houston or Miami.