Anti-union forces are hitting South Dakota mailboxes with their first pitch against Initiated Measure 23, the fair-share union dues proposal. An eager reader forwards this flyer funded by South Dakotans for Freedom and Jobs, one of three ballot question committees formed to oppose IM 23. South Dakotans for Freedom and Jobs appears to have more non-South Dakotans involved than non-South Dakotans: its chair, Rich Hilgemann, is a Brown County GOP official, but its treasurer, Robert Beiswenger, lists a Des Moines UPS Store as his address on the committee’s statement of organization but works in Indiana and runs the Indiana Right to Work Committee.
The man purportedly sending the letter (and the fundraising pitch, and the four postcards he wants you to send to friends to exhort them to oppose “forced unionism”) is a Washington Beltway lobbyist with Koch Brother connections:
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee and Legal Defense Foundation, has his office right on the southwest edge of I-495, twenty minutes from Capitol Hill. Mix gets paid $183,976 a year to tell people around the country that unions are bad. Mix’s outfit was one of numerous parties to Friedrichs v. California, the case in which our Thune-locked U.S. Supreme Court let stand fair-share union dues and kept IM 23 in play.
The core statistical claim of Mix’s missive, repeated on the cards recipients can stamp send to friends (Hi, Grandma! Kids are great, but unions stink!) is that “private sector employment jumped over 11% in the last decade in South Dakota—twice as much as forced-unionism states.” Mix is, of course, asserting that correlation equals causation. According to the August 23, 2016, State Economic Snapshots from the Congressional Joint Economic Committee, since December 2007, before the recession, South Dakota’s private-sector employment has grown 7.7%, compared to a national average of 5.4%. Using Mix’s NRTW list of “right to work” versus “forced unionism” states and including District of Columbia, the 26 “right to work” states saw private sector job growth of 6.05%, while the 24 other states plus D.C. saw 5.25% job growth. The actual statistical correlation between private-sector job growth rates and “right to work” status is 0.0004—practically nil. Mix can’t cite a rigorous statistical correlation, let alone the causation that his postcard text implies.