‘RTW’ states: Strong policies that keep workers trapped in poverty


Despite Gov. Parson’s pledge, Republicans still looking at next year


Once again, the ugly truth about so-called “right-to-work” and its negative impact on workers clearly comes through in a new eye-opening report by the global non-profit charitable Oxfam America who uses advocacy and information to tackle the systems, policies and practices that keep people trapped in poverty.

And if there was ever a policy that traps working people many different ways in poverty, it’s the phony RTW. As the Labor Tribune has reported on extensively, wages alone are over $8,000 LOWER on average in RTW states. But that’s not the entire story.

And despite the pledge by Gov. Mike Parson that RTW won’t be an issue while he’s in office, the strong-arm business lobby has their hand-chosen Republicans talking about going around the governor to try another pass next year at implementing the law.

Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected RTW twice, but it lingers in Jefferson City like a death shroud.

On their website, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce is preparing for the next fight by asking for its member companies to, “ … help us illustrate to lawmakers why this important policy change is a win for our state… We may follow up with you to get more information.”

Fortunately in Illinois, with the election of Democrat J.B. Pritzker and Democrats controlling both houses in the Legislature, the RTW threat is now non-existent. It’s something the 67 percent of Missourians who defeated RTW last year should think about in the 2020 elections.

The Oxfam report individually outlines three detailed areas of concern to workers – wage standards, worker protections and the right to organize. It then combines all three into a single overall rating by states.

The results are shocking. Looking at data from all 50 states in each category, the Labor Tribune has ranked them by the WORST 25 states and the BEST 25 states. Here are the results, yet another reminder to workers that RTW is an employers’ law and provide nothing good for workers.

All data is based on laws and policies in effect as of July 1, 2019. The index is based on state policies in three dimensions; each account for a third of the final overall score.

Do workers earn a living wage that is sufficient to provide for them and their families? This dimension includes two areas:
• The ratio of the actual state minimum wage in relation to the “living wage” for a family of four with one wage earner.
• Whether or not the state allows localities to implement their own minimum wage laws.

This dimension considers the quality of life for workers, especially women and parents regarding:
• Mandates for equal pay, pay secrecy, no salary history.
• Leave for non-Family& Medical Leave Act (FMLA) workers because of less time on the job; leave longer than federal FMLA.
• Mandate for paid sick leave.
• Protections around flexible scheduling, reporting pay, split shift pay, advance notice.
• Protections around sexual harassment.
• Protections for women who are pregnant and breastfeeding.

• Do workers have the right to organize and sustain a trade union?
• Does the state have a so-called “Right to Work” law (which suppresses union activity)?
• Do public employees (teachers, police, firefighters) have rights to collective bargaining and wage negotiation?
• Are Project Labor Agreements for government contracts available?


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