Right to work states may not lead to greater prosperity

By Brent Daggett

Contributing writer for End the Lie

Pro-union rally 2011 (Image credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

Pro-union rally 2011 (Image credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr)

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, a non-profit founded in 1968, continues their mission to fight coercive union power and compulsory abuses.

Editor’s note: be sure to read Brent’s latest articles “Whistleblowers: are they heroes or traitors?” and “Louisiana health officials order shelter to throw away 1,600 pounds of donated meat

Most democrats argue that unionization is vital in preserving the quality of life, while most republicans view unions as hindering economic growth and having a plethora of special privileges.

And the last election illustrated how the issue over unionization or free enterprise is far from over.

With the protests throughout the nation surrounding right-to-work’s reported back door route to union busting; it begs the question, do states with right-to-work laws lead to greater prosperity over non-right-to-work states?

Details on the aforementioned question will be given later, but in the mean time, let’s explore the union’s privileges according to National Right to Work.

1. Exemption from prosecution for union violence: In 1973, the Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Enmons union violence is exempt from the Hobbs Act. The Hobbs Act essentially makes it a federal crime to hinder interstate commerce by robbery or extortion.

2. Exemption from anti-monopoly laws: As stated in the 1914 Clayton Act, unions are exempt from anti-monopoly laws.

3. Power to force employees to accept unwanted union representation: Union officials are the exclusive bargaining agents amongst all the employees at an establishment that is unionized. This deprives employees from making their own employment contracts.

4. Power to collect forced union dues.

5. Unlimited, undisclosed electioneering: Unions are exempt under The Federal Election Campaign from the limits on campaign contributions, expenditures and some of their reporting requirements.

6. Ability to strong-arm employers into negotiations: Groups such as the NLRA, FLRA, and RLA make it illegal for employers to oppose a union’s efforts to collective bargain.

7. Right to trespass on an employer’s private property: “The Norris-LaGuardia Act of 1932 (and state anti-injunction acts) give union activists immunity from injunctions against trespass on an employer’s property.”

8. Ability of strikers to keep jobs despite refusing to work.

9. Union-only cartels on construction projections.

10. Government funding of forced unionism: Each year unions receive around $160 million in direct federal grants.

In a speech given by right-to-work president Mark Mix at Oberlin College last year, Mix stated that unions were stronger in states that allow agency fees.

“Anyone here who says that… right-to-work laws are anti-union is just wrong,” Mix said.  “States who have right-to-work laws, how can their union density be higher?  I would suggest that unions are doing a good job in those states to convince workers that… they’re doing a good job and pay for those services that unions provide.”

As with any speaker coming on a college campus, rebuttals are a common occurrence.

Alice Beecher, a junior at the time, who is the co-chair of the Student Labor Action Coalition, questioned Mix’s assertions.

“You’re rejecting the analysis that right to work laws bust unions,” Beecher said. “But statistically this doesn’t make sense… right-to-work states have [unionization] rates of 7.2 percent versus 16.1 percent [non-right-to-work states… How do you protect workers?”

Obviously, with this contentious issue, not all are in agreement with the Mix or mostly republican governor’s proposing the legislation.

In response to Republican Governor of Michigan Rick Snyder ramming through right-to-work legislation last December during a lame duck session, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka had this reaction.

“Political partisanship reigns supreme in Michigan today, thanks to a radical group of Republicans ramming through so-called right to work legislation in the lame-duck session, despite massive protests in the state’s Capitol building. The people in the Capitol and around the state are demanding that legislators focus on an agenda that puts families and communities first, yet these republican legislators and Snyder are willing to put politics ahead of Michigan’s well being.

This legislation is about silencing the voices of working families in our democracy at a time when what we need is for people to have a stronger voice in building our future. Now, more than ever, people in Lansing and Michigan need to work together to rebuild and focus on the big issue that brings people together. This could not be more divisive.

Gov. Snyder’s sideshow of a press conference today was an utterly disingenuous attempt to mislead. With his announcement, Snyder joins a list of other governors – Kasich, Walker and others-who have acted to put the future of their states in the hands of big corporations and CEOs and leave working families behind.”

With Trumka’s sentiments in mind, there is evidence to suggest right-to-work states are not all what they are cracked up to be.

Below is a graphic, which appeared in the Detroit Free Press in December of 2012 regarding the accusations of right-to-work states leading to greater prosperity than non-right-to-work states.

To go even further, here are some statistics released by the AFL-CIO.    

Lower Wages and Income

  • The average worker in states with “right to work” laws makes $1,540 a year less when all other factors are removed in other states.
  • Median household income in states with these laws is $6,437 less than in other states ($46,402 vs. 52,839).
  • In states with “right to work” laws, 26.7 percent of jobs are in low-wage occupations, compared with 19.5 percent of jobs in other states.

Less Job-Based Health Insurance Coverage

  • People in states with “right to work” laws are more likely to be uninsured (16.8 percent, compared with 13.1 percent overall; among children, it’s 10.8 vs. 7.5 percent).
  • They’re less likely to have job-based health insurance than people in other states (56.2 percent, compared with 60.1 percent)

Only 50.7 percent of employers in states with these laws offer insurance coverage to their employees, compared with 55.2 percent in other states.  That difference is even more significant among small employers (with fewer than 50 workers)-only 34.4 percent of them offer workers health insurance, compared with 41.7 percent of small employers in other states…

While this debate will continue to rage on for quite some time, let us not forget the right for individuals to peaceably assemble.

If one wants to be in a union or non-union that is their prerogative. No one should be forced to join a union just like no one should go around union busting.

As philosopher Adam Smith wrote in Wealth of Nations:

“We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combinations of masters, though frequently of those workmen.  But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject.  Masters are always and everywhere in sort of a tacit, but constant and uniform, combination, not to raise the wages of labour above their actual rate… Masters, too, sometimes enter into particular combinations to sink the wages of labour even below this rate.  These are always conducted with the utmost silence and secrecy till the moment of execution; and when the workmen yield, as the sometimes so without resistance, though severely felt by them, they are never heard of by other people.  The masters … never cease to call aloud for the assistance of the civil magistrate, and the rigorous execution of those laws which have been enacted with so much severity against the combination of servants, labourers, and journeymen.”

Edited by End the Lie

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