IBEW’s Stephenson: ‘RTW’ laws don’t work

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In RTW states, employees earn much less

Long-shot efforts to roll back so-called “right-to-work” laws in Michigan and Virginia aren’t likely to level the playing field for working people this year, but a new study provides fresh ammunition for pro-union lawmakers in the fight for repeal.

The study, released earlier this year by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, lays out how, on a number of metrics, states with “right-to-work” laws come up short. From lower wages to less community engagement, states with these deceptively named laws are failing working families.

Researchers looked at data dating back to 2008 to determine the impact of “right-to-work” laws on state economies and worker well-being. What they found paints a bleak picture. The 27 U.S. states that have enacted “right-to-work” laws saw slower economic growth, lower wages, higher consumer debt, worse health outcomes and lower levels of civic participation than states that do not have such laws.

“This new study shows what we’ve known all along, that ‘right-to-work’ doesn’t, in fact, work,” said Lonnie R. Stephenson, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

“It doesn’t help people and it doesn’t help states. Instead, these laws prop up a corporate bottom line — usually at the expense of the workers that make their profits possible.”

According to the analysis, “right-to-work” states have three percent lower hourly wages on average, five percent less health insurance coverage and eight percent less retirement security.

For construction workers, the pay penalty rises to 11 percent. On average, union households earn between 10 percent and 20 percent more than nonunion households — an income premium that has been consistent since the 1930s.

Free collective-bargaining states also provide more investment in education and worker training, fewer on-the-job fatalities and faster-growing economies. Among the report’s findings was that “right-to-work” states have 31 percent fewer registered apprentices per 100,000 workers and 50 percent more on-the-job fatalities. Apprenticeships also grew faster in union-friendly states, providing more avenues to the middle class.

 

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