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In ‘Right to Work’ Battle, Narrative Trumps Fact on NPR

Some helpful numbers you'll never hear from government-funded radio.

Ray Hartwell


January 12, 2012 - 12:00 am
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NPR could have contrasted “right-to-work” states with “forced unionism” states, as proponents of the former might put it. But that contrast was not presented; rather, the premise of the NPR narrative — that workers always benefit from union membership — is not questioned in the stories I sampled. Perhaps it should have been noted that this premise is open to serious question.

Although readily available from sources such as the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, the following facts strike me as unlikely to be reported on NPR:

– private sector employees compensation growth in real dollars during the period 2000-2010 grew by more than 11% annually in right-to-work states, and by less than 1% in “forced unionism” states;

– during the same period, growth in manufacturing GDP (in 2005 dollars) grew by 18.6% in right-to-work states against 8.3% in forced unionism states; and

– private sector employees’ cost-of-living adjusted compensation was actually greater in right-to-work states than in forced unionism states in 2010.

Caveat to NPR listeners about the “right-to-work” issue: there is more to this story than what you’ve heard on NPR. Come to think of it, that’s probably a good assumption to make about any story you hear on NPR.

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Ray Hartwell is a partner in the Washington office of a major law firm, where he specializes in competition law and white collar criminal matters. Over the past decade he has also served as a trustee of his alma mater, Washington and Lee University. He is a Vietnam-era Navy veteran, having served as antisubmarine warfare and nuclear weapons officer aboard a guided missile destroyer. His opinion articles have appeared in various publications, including the Washington Times and the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
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