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Video: President Obama Says "Right to Work" Laws Really Mean "Right To Work For Less Money"

by: lowkell

Mon Dec 10, 2012 at 15:16:11 PM EST


As you know, Virginia is a so-called "right-to-work" state, or as Leslie Byrne calls it the "right-to-be-poor." For whatever reason, and it's difficult for me to comprehend why, there are Democrats who actually support these godawful laws, which among other things "restrict freedom of association by prohibiting workers and employers from agreeing to contracts that include fair share fees, and so create a free rider problem...[and also] lead to lower wages and worse safety and health conditions for workers."

How bad are these laws? A 2011 study by the Economic Policy Institute found that: 1) "Wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states"; 2) "The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) is 2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states compared with non-RTW states" and 3) "The rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states."

In sum, President Obama is absolutely correct that so-called "right-to-work" laws really mean the "right to make less money" for employees. Of course, the corporations make out quite nicely, which is why they spend so much money lobbying and pushing for states to enact these laws. That should tell you all you need to know.

P.S. For more information on the negative impact of these Orwellian "right-to-work" laws, see What "Right to Work" Would Mean for Michigan (e.g., "while promoting free association and individual liberty sound noble, the use of such concepts to advance RTW legislation belie a less lofty motive: to undermine the economic and political power of wage-earners")

lowkell :: Video: President Obama Says "Right to Work" Laws Really Mean "Right To Work For Less Money"
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Not Difficult to Comprehend (4.00 / 1)
Democrats who support right-to-work laws do so because they believe no employee should be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.  Simple.  If the union has a product that is worth buying, then let them convince the employees to buy it rather than  mandating the firing of all employees who do not make the required dues payments.  

If it's true that unions are the cause of higher wages and benefits, I am sure they will have no problem obtaining everyone's support!  Of course, if these differences are mitigated by cost of living differences and/or are not caused by unions, then perhaps employees will choose not to pay union dues.  The point is, it should be their choice, not the union's or the employer's.  


So Workers Who Don't Pay Their Way Should Benefit (0.00 / 0)
Your argument assumes a level playing field in a "free market" for labor that does not exist. It is a naive view of one who enjoys the benefits from the history of labor successes made possible by unions and completely ignores the realities of the market and the struggle that created the middle class in America.  

[ Parent ]
Not Ignoring Union Successes (4.00 / 1)
I give credit to unions for pioneering a number of progressive labor developments.  That said, there is a reason unions are thriving in the sector of our economy not subject to competition, and shriveling away in the private sector.  Unions bear plenty of blame for their own demise, primarily due to their habit of looking out for their own power and influence rather than improving the lives of their members.  To be fair though, unions are also, to some degree, a victim of their own success, since all workplaces are now subject to OSHA, EEOC and other governmental regulations.  

In any case, I am not ignoring any of this history, nor am I being "naive" and assuming there is a level playing field. I just simply disagree that the solution to the problem is to enable companies and unions to make agreements enforcing compulsory union dues for workers.  We could probably agree on a number of other policy prescriptions (e.g., more progressive taxation, single payer healthcare and other governmental interventions to alleviate the harsh edges of capitalism). But saying to employees "pay up or be fired" violates principles of worker freedom and conflicts with our more recent experience with unions, which has been marked by their inability to use resources for the common good.  In my view, we ought not try to "fix" the excesses of corporations by subsidizing unions (which are self-serving businesses themselves); we should instead establish reasonable regulations and employee protections (as well as fair tax and benefit laws) and then let the companies who play by these rules create shared prosperity from their success.    


[ Parent ]
Ever Worked in a Union Shop? (0.00 / 0)
n/t

[ Parent ]
Just out of curiosity, what do you contend that proves (for either answer)? (0.00 / 0)
n/t

[ Parent ]
"Proves?" (0.00 / 0)
Odd question. But I have my answer.

[ Parent ]
So when argument fails, pull out the "ad hominem" attacks . . . (0.00 / 0)
It's not about you or me.  The right-to-work law either makes for good public policy, or it doesn't.  I respect your opinions; I just disagree, even from a progressive perspective.  You should welcome a frank discussion of the merits if you really believe you have the better argument. (BTW, I thought that's what this forum was for.)  

Note that the quotes around ad hominem above are a reflection of the fact that I am only assuming that your snide "I have my answer" is supposed to imply that only those who have worked in union shops are qualified to have an opinion on this public policy issue.  Is that what you are saying?  Seems you don't really want to engage in that debate either for some reason.


[ Parent ]
Free loaders (0.00 / 0)
There are the free loaders that think they shouldn't have to pay dues to obtain benefits and are too dumb to realize that once right to work goes in effect they all will lose. The reason we in Va have pretty good wages is most people in Northern Va work for the federal govt or indirectly.
People in Northern states with unions that work for auto companies can afford to buy the cars they make. How about a worker in Alabama making a Mercedes?

Hey Mittster (4.00 / 1)
So, the 90+ percent of private sector workers who choose not to unionize at all are just too dumb to realize that unions automatically equal more benefits?  You sound like a certain presidential candidate, except that you're writing off nearly the entire country.  I think you should consider the possibility that some portion of your fellow citizens have looked at the modern global economy and concluded that either (A) they are already receiving a fair benefits package; or (B) their employer's competitiveness (and therefore their own job security) is in better shape if the company doesn't have to deal with union work rules and bargaining demands.  Or perhaps both.  If a union doesn't get enough dues to conduct its business, they should convince these "free loaders" to join up, or they should walk away and let the chips fall where they may.  Interestingly, that never seems to happen.

[ Parent ]
Choose Not To Unionize??? (4.00 / 1)
Do  you know anything of the lengths corporations go to, to make sure that union organizing elections never take place, or if they take place, that the union loses? If corporations really were willing to give their workers the right to "choose not to unionize," they would readily go along with a card check system of voting "yes"  or "no" on whether to be represented by a union or not. That's how people get to "choose" - by secret ballot in a fair, free election.

If you need information about how corporations inhibit the right of workers to choose a union or not, check out the history of Walmart, for a start.


[ Parent ]
You do realize that card check is the opposite of secret ballot? (0.00 / 0)
Remember when people from your workplace showed up at your door and told you we'd all be better off if you signed this card voting for Romney?  There were some strange-looking men with them (people you didn't recognize) who seemed to be making note of whether you were willing to support the effort?  And after you did sign the card (just to get them to go away), that was your final and only vote in the election?  No, you don't because no sane society would conduct an election in a way that allowed that to happen.  That's card check -- it's the opposite of holding a secret ballot election.

The bottom line is, employer's who violate the rules should be punished -- if you think that's the problem, then let's solve it by fixing the NLRA.  But don't punish innocent workers in unionized settings by forcing them to pay union dues or be fired.  Union apologists are great at changing the subject on this, but the fact remains that unions need to be responsible for convincing workers to voluntarily join up; compulsory unionization is unfair and only encourages all the well-documented union excesses.  (While you're researching Walmart, check out the Teamsters' or Laborers' sordid pasts.)


[ Parent ]
Interestingly... (0.00 / 0)
Interestingly, auto workers in RTW states including Alabama are the target of union drives all the time. Just about every year, the UAW makes the rounds to boost their membership, and every year, they encounter little desire from auto workers in those states to join a union.

[ Parent ]
Please Note (0.00 / 0)
Please try to understand that the very threat of a union winning representation in Alabama and other RTW states often results in corporations being more generous in their salary scales and benefits. If the right wing gets its way and destroys the threat of union organizing, then they can do whatever they wish with impunity. That's the goal of those who have no respect for the workers of this or any other country. If they can starve the unions into oblivion, only then will they be content.

[ Parent ]
"Right to Work for LESS" Fact Sheet (4.00 / 1)
See here:

Extremist groups, right-wing politicians and their corporate backers want to weaken the power of workers and their unions through so-called "right to work" laws. Their efforts are a partisan political ploy that undermines the basic rights of workers. By making unions weaker, these laws lower wages and living standards for all workers in the state. By many measures, the quality of life is worse in states with "right to work" laws. Wages are lower, poverty and lack of insurance are higher, education is weaker-even infant mortality and the likelihood of being killed on the job are higher.

States with "Right to Work" Laws Have:

Lower Wages and Incomes
  • The average worker in states with "right to work" laws makes $1,540 a year less when all other factors are removed than workers in other states.1
  • Median household income in states with these laws is $6,437 less than in other states ($46,402 vs. $52,839).2
  • 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.3

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 percent vs. 7.5 percent).4
  • They're less likely to have job-based health insurance than people in other states (56.2 percent, compared with 60.1 percent).5
  • 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.6

Higher Poverty and Infant Mortality Rates
  • Poverty rates are higher in states with "right to work" laws (15.3 percent overall and 21.5 percent for children), compared with poverty rates of 13.1 percent overall and 18.1 percent for children in states without these laws.7
  • The infant mortality rate is 15 percent higher in states with these laws.8

Less Investment in Education

  • States with "right to work" laws spend $3,392 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than other states, and students are less likely to be performing at their appropriate grade level in math and reading.9

Higher Rates of Death on the Job

  • The rate of workplace deaths is 36 percent higher in states with these laws, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.10

1 Economic Policy Institute.

2 U.S. Census Bureau, Table H-8. Median Household Income by State.

3 CFED, Asset and Opportunity Scorecard.

4 Kaiser Family Foundation

5 Ibid.

6 Ibid.

7 Census Bureau, POV46: Poverty Status by State: 2010, related children under 18Table 19. Percent of Persons in Poverty, by State: 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Kaiser Family Foundation.

9 National Education Association, Rankings & Estimates-Rankings of the States 2011 and Estimates of School Statistics 2012, December 2011; CFED, Asset & Opportunity Scorecard.
10 AFL-CIO, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, April 2012.


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