RTW’s only goal: Cut union membership, weaken union bargaining power

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By ED FINKELSTEIN

Publisher

(EDITOR’S NOTE: For the purposes of this story, data from West Virginia (2016) and Kentucky (2017) is not included because their RTW laws were too new to be statistically measured. Nor is Missouri, where RTW was passed this year, and has not yet implemented the law pending a statewide vote in November 2018.)

The “right-to-work” snake oil hucksters are finding new ways to pour more false information into the state as they try to convince voters next fall that RTW should become law in Missouri.

Their latest focus is the impact RTW will have on union membership. RTW proponents say it will increase membership – something they and we know isn’t true. RTW means big losses for us, and we have the facts to back us up.

CHERRY PICKING THE FACTS

RTW proponents cherry pick through the facts to substantiate their false claims.

In a recent article in the Missouri Times, a right-wing political consultant (who was not identified as such) made two very false assertions:

1) Unions grow in RTW states: he cherry picked a state – Indiana – and a single year – 2014 — to set up the false premise that RTW will help unions grow, not hurt them.

2) That RTW is a major factor when companies look to locate into a new state.

Let’s look at both statements in the light of the FACTS from the U.S. Dept. of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics:

UNION MEMBERSHIP

For the single year 2014, and in one state, Indiana, the offered data was accurate. Indiana union membership increased while Missouri membership dropped slightly. But this was only true for that one year. Cherry picking!

When we look at a broader time perspective – 2013-2016 – using the most current data, it becomes clear how WRONG and distorted that hypothesis really is.

Indiana and Missouri’s union membership grew at exactly the same rate: 1.10 percent.

UNION DENSITY

Now let’s look at union density in the American workforce.

In 2016, 10.7 percent of all workers in the United States were union members.

However, in RTW states:

• Only three RTW states have a union density greater than 10.7 percent, 23 have LESS.

• 20 worker-friendly, non-RTW states have stronger union density and only five have less than the 10.7 percent national average.

U.S. Labor Department data shows that between 2013 and 2016, overall union membership in RTW states declined by 210,000 while it increased by 238,000 in worker-friendly, non-RTW states. Specifically:

• 13 RTW states gained 203,000 new union members.

• 12 RTW states lost 413,000 union members.

RTW states LOST almost twice as many union members as they gained.

So, the writer’s original hypothesis that RTW substantially increases union membership, and is therefore good for unions, is not only wrong, it’s a deliberate lie designed to confuse.

That’s the real story.

RTW AS A MAGNET? NO WAY 

The second erroneous assertion made in the Missouri Times article, that RTW is a key factor companies look for when considering new location sites, is also blown away by the facts.

Several year's worth of surveys of site selection experts by Area Development magazine found that RTW doesn’t even rank as one of the 10 top reasons companies make site selection decisions.

The truth is, many factors impact a state’s ability to attract new jobs: state tax incentives, transportation infrastructure, low corporate taxes, central location, access to water routes, types of industries, workforce skills and education and state culture.

SO WHY RTW?

Money is at the heart of the RTW fight.

Decimating union membership to make the unions financially weaker and less able to fight for workers’ rights is the simple and only reason companies want RTW.

Unions, like the companies whose workers they represent, have operating expenses related to representation and bargaining. They have offices, staff and lawyers like any company. These costs are paid from union dues or, if a person in a union represented shop doesn’t want to be a union member (and they don’t have to be), a “fair share” fee to cover the union’s operating expenses.

Unions are required by law to represent all workers in a union represented shop, but so-called “right-to-work” laws ban union-represented businesses from negotiating labor contracts that assure workers either pay dues or the smaller “fair share” fee to cover the union’s cost of bargaining and representation.

The idea is to financially starve unions, thus limiting the union’s ability to negotiate and represent workers.

Forcing unions to spend members’ money to fight for non-members’ rights simply drains the union’s financial resources.

MAKING THE BOSSES HAPPY

This gives employers increased power over their workers because, without a unified front where all workers stand together, workers cannot protect their rights.

Be prepared for a deluge of false information in the coming months as we move closer to the November 2018 election to defeat RTW in Missouri.

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‘Before/After’ tells it all

To get a truer picture of the impact RTW has on union membership, a review of “before and after” data from the two newest states that went RTW (year RTW became effective):

West Virginia (2016) 2015: 83,000 union members; 2016: 79,000 union members. LOSS: 4,000 union members.

Wisconsin (2015)2014: 306,000 union members; 2015: 223,000 union members. LOSS: 83,000 union members; 2016: 127,000 union members: LOSS since RTW began - 179,000 union members.

The impact of RTW is clear: there are those willing to take the benefits negotiated by the union but not pay their fair share to support those efforts. It’s call FREELOADING.

Because union wages and benefits tend to set a floor for employers, weaker unions mean that all workers, regardless of union membership, will ultimately suffer as wages and benefits decline.

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