Indiana policymakers are poised to pass a right-to-work law, which would make it the first state in the so-called “manufacturing belt” to pass such legislation. While the manufacturing belt isn’t what it used to be, Indiana has the greatest concentration of manufacturing jobs in the country and likely has the most to gain from enacting a right-to-work measure.

A right-to-work law means employees cannot be coerced to join or financially support a union as a condition of employment. This makes unions more accountable since they have to prove to their members that they are worth the cost. At the same time, right-to-work protections are attractive to employers because they can be more confident that a union actually reflects the interests of the men and women it represents. Most employers can accept tough negotiations with employees; over the long run they benefit from having a workforce that is content with its wages and working conditions. A union that is unaccountable and free to pursue its own interests is less valuable to workers and can do far more damage to employers. And the numbers show this accountability improves jobs in right-to-work states.

The old manufacturing belt, stretching from New York to Wisconsin, still maintains some states with a large percentage of manufacturing jobs, but others have dropped. Pennsylvania and New York aren't even in the top 10. Michigan’s concentration is down to 6th, falling behind Ohio, Arkansas and Iowa in the past decade. Illinois remains near the middle, at 20th.

While Indiana leads the country in manufacturing job concentration, five of the top 10 manufacturing states have right-to-work laws.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming all provide employees with right-to-work protections.

Manufacturing Jobs
as a Percent of Total Jobs

Percent

Rank

Indiana 13.1% 1
Wisconsin 13.0% 2
Iowa 10.6% 3
Arkansas 10.6% 4
Ohio 10.0% 5
Michigan 9.9% 6
Alabama 9.8% 7
Mississippi 9.4% 8
Kentucky 9.3% 9
Kansas 9.2% 10

 

Source: Author’s calculations based on data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.