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Both Sides in Labor Fight Point to Oklahoma Right-to-Work Law

Wall Street Journal (01/27/12) Melanie Trottman

Indiana is expected to soon adopt a right-to-work law, and both sides in the debate are examining the experience of Oklahoma, the last state to ease union-dues requirements under a similar law. Both supporters and opponents of the measure have cited Oklahoma as the test case for whether adopting a right-to-work law sends jobs to a state. After passing its right-to-work law in 2001, Oklahoma’s economy has held up better than the national economy. The state’s unemployment rate was 6.1% in December, compared with the national rate of 8.5%. The Oklahoma Department of Commerce says the state’s employment growth is third-highest in the nation.

However, many economists say it is not possible to determine precisely how much, if at all, the law improved Oklahoma’s jobs picture. Some observers say the evidence suggests that the change has neither been the panacea proponents promised nor the destructive force on wages and quality jobs that opponents warned it would be. A study on right-to-work laws between 2001 and 2006 found the economies of these states grew an average of 3.4%, compared with 2.6% for states without the laws.