Spanish philosopher George Santayana is famously quoted as saying "Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." The converse is also true—what better way to learn how to improve our economy than look at what other states are doing to turn themselves around. With that in mind, consider the results Oklahoma experienced after passing Right to Work legislation in 2001.
Firstly, consider its impact on job creation. In the first 6 months after passing Right-To-Work, the state went from 40th in job creation to 1st. In 2002 (the first year after passing Right to Work), the OK Chamber announce plans to add the highest number of new jobs since 1995 (over 7800) with capital spending of almost 800 million. Looking more long-term, Job announcements in OK are up 94% from 2001 while investment announcements rose 153% from 2001.
Despite the union boss’ Chicken Little "the sky is falling" like claims, this job creation has not come at the expense of the worker. Since passing Right to Work, OK has gone from being ranked 43rd in the nation in per capita income at 24,410 to 34th in 2009 at 35,268. While the constant dollar national median household income DROPPED by over $1000 between 2001-2001 and 2000-2003 it INCREASED by almost $800 during that same time. In fact, OK has had the 4th fastest median household income growth in the nation and 11th fastest per-capita personal income growth from 2000-2010.
This economic upswing is not an aberration, but something that is currently being duplicated in Indiana, which passed Right to Work legislation a little over a year ago. In that year, 91 companies have expressed doing business in Indiana with the potential of generating 4500 or more jobs and 1.6 billion dollars in investments. The jobs being created are paying (on average) almost $3.00 more than the average wage in Indiana.
These facts bring some important questions to bear. Why don’t the union boss’ want this kind of growth for Pennsylvania and its workers (including their own members)? Could it be because that it is more important to them to line their own pocket than to increase prosperity for all? Similarly, as we head into a budget season when every government agency and its brother is in the state capitol with its hand out begging for more money, why aren’t our legislators learning from Oklahoma’s past and implementing this zero cost growth solution?
We have some great examples to follow, but as we continue to allow more states to show us what SHOULD be done, we fall further down the list of states businesses will look at when considering where to start or expand.