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A shot to NH: Sturm, Ruger and right-to-work

July 10. 2013 6:03PM

Opponents of making New Hampshire a right-to-work state said incessantly that it would hurt the state economically. This week another manufacturer, this one based in New England, chose to expand in a right-to-work state instead of in New Hampshire.

Connecticut-based Sturm, Ruger & Co., spent months openly seeking a location for a new manufacturing plant to supplement its existing operations in Arizona and Newport, N.H. “We had a number of criteria for expansion, and we did not find anything in New Hampshire that we thought was suitable,” Kevin Reed, general counsel and vice president for Sturm, Ruger, said. “Right-to-work state was one of our criteria,” he added.

Imagine that. A large, successful, American manufacturer wanting to operate in a state where employees could not be compelled to join a labor union or pay it tribute in the form of “association fees.”

In the last legislative session, the House Republican leadership made a strong push for right-to-work. It was defeated by Democrats and pro-labor Republicans, who claimed fatuously that it was really the “right to work for less.” Ignoring the fact that wages in Southern and Western states were lower on average than in Rust Belt states before right-to-work laws, opponents suggested that the laws caused lower wages. Wages do tend to be slightly lower in right-to-work states, but after cost of living is taken into account the gap narrows, or even vanishes.

What is unquestionable is that right-to-work states see higher rates of job growth. The Wall Street Journal reported in December that “private employment has grown 4.9% in right-to-work states over the past three years, versus 3.9% in other states, according to an analysis of Labor Department data. This disparity is particularly stark in the factory sector: Manufacturing employment has grown 4.1% in right-to-work states over the past three years, compared with less than 3% in other states.”It is unlikely that right-to-work would significantly depress wages in New Hampshire. It is highly likely that it would increase employment. In the meantime, companies like Sturm, Ruger continue to move South.

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