The Truth about Right to Work

There has been a series of Face Book posts recently about passing Right to Work (RTW) in Missouri. There is also a small but very vocal group of people posting just as heavily against Right to Work. I’m in favor of Right to Work but until now I’ve stayed out of those arguments.

What is amazing to me is the disinformation being spread by those opposing RTW: RTW will outlaw unions (No, it won’t). RTW will force employers to fire union workers (No, it won’t). RTW will force union workers to leave the union (No, it won’t). RTW will prohibit employers from hiring union members (No, it won’t). The series of outright lies continues.

Right to Work is two concepts:

  • The end of the closed and union-only shop. Employees will not be forced to join a union against their will and will not be required to join a union as a condition of employment.
  • The end of forced payment of union dues. Non-union employees will not be forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Right to Work Law & Legal Definition

Right-to-work laws are state laws that prohibit both the closed and union shop. A right to work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. However, employees who work in the railway or airline industries are not protected by a right to work law, and employees who work on a federal enclave may not be.

Under federal labor law and state right to work laws, which exist in slightly less than half of the states, you have the right to resign from membership in a union at any time. If you resign from membership, you may not be able to participate in union elections or meetings, vote in collective bargaining ratification elections, or participate in other “internal” union activities. If you resign, you cannot be disciplined by the union for any post-resignation conduct.

If you resign from union membership, you are still fully covered by the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated between your employer and the union, and the union remains obligated to represent you. Any benefits that are provided to you by your employer pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement (e.g., wages, seniority, vacations, pension, health insurance) will not be affected by your resignation. Howver, the union may exclude you from some “members-only” benefits. Although you may resign from union membership at anytime, you may be limited to a specific “window period” before you are able to end any automatic dues deductions.

Right to Work is supported by Federal law as noted above. It protected by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947—a backlash of the Labor Relations Act, or as it’s also known, the Wagner Act of 1935. The Taft-Hartley Act defines what Right to Work is, and is not.

Union propagandists ignore these facts. They continue to claim that wages are lower in RTW states. This claim has been refuted in a 2004 study.

Nominal Wages evidence:

Opponents of Right to Work like to point out that the average wage in Right to Work states is lower than the average wage in non-RTW states.  For example, on the issue section of AFL-CIO’s website, they cite the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2001: “The average worker in a ‘right to work’ state earns about $5,333 less a year than workers in other states” (“RTW States Are”).  Proponents of Right to Work do not dispute the above statistic, but suggest that the statistic is overly simplistic, manipulative and misleading. 

On a nominal basis, wages are lower in Right to Work states, but proponents argue, and this paper confirms, that once the above statistic is adjusted for cost of living, real spending power is at least the same and perhaps higher in Right to Work states.  For example, when the National Institute for Labor Relations Research used The Economist Magazine’s data to adjust the poverty rate in 2001 for cost of living they found that this adjusted rate was 10.8% in states with Right to Work laws as compared to 12.9% for non-RTW states (“Independent Study”).

While some RTW states appear to have lower wage rates than some non-RTW states, the availability of jobs is much greater in the RTW states. Why? Because companies are moving from those union dominated states to RTW states where union power can’t break a company—like Hostess Brands.

Survival is a strong motivator. If you examine the wasteland of the Rust Belt and compare that with Texas, the South and the Central states, the economic divergence is astounding. Job and economic growth in the RTW states is increasing. Those same job and economic growth rates are falling in the non-RTW states.

The AFL-CIO likes to call RTW the Right-to-Work-for-less. That statement is meaningless if you don’t have a job.  All too many unemployed in those union controlled states would be happy to work for less—except they can’t. The unions are forcing jobs and companies to migrate to states where those companies can survive.

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see which system—RTW and non-RTW works.