Today, the Missouri legislature is scheduled to vote on overriding Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of right to work. If Republicans can muster enough votes—several GOP members have received substantial union funds and stand in the way—for the first time in American history a majority of states will protect workers from being forced to pay union dues or lose their job.
At risk of losing coercive power to extract dues from workers, labor unions have their political machine set on overdrive and are spreading misinformation. Union-funded ads claim right-to-work (RTW) “takes away our voice” to collective bargain wages and work conditions. Other messaging cautions, “Workers in right-to-work states make on average $1,500 less per year than workers in states that allow employees to bargain for fair wages and benefits.”
To dispel the union myths about RTW, the Competitive Enterprise Institute released a report that highlights the positive attributes that arise from ending forced union dues payments.
First and foremost, RTW is about worker freedom. Workers should have the choice in how they spend their hard-earned paychecks. Providing workers a choice on whether or not to pay dues does not weaken labor unions or impair collective bargaining negotiations, common false union rhetoric against RTW.
For example, if RTW was so devastating to labor unions, why has union membership seen an overall increase of 39,000 in RTW states between 2011 and 2012 while non-RTW states lost 390,000 members?
Even some union organizers prefer recruiting members in a RTW environment. United Auto Workers Secretary-Treasurer Gary Casteel explains:
This is something I’ve never understood, that people think right-to-work hurts unions. … To me, it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, “If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong,” versus, “If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.” I don’t even like the way that sounds, because it’s a voluntary system, and if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.
Economic benefits also follow the passage of RTW and refute union claims that ending forced union dues means a “right to work for less.” A CEI report, “An Interstate Analysis of Right to Work Laws,” analyzes the economic impact that right-to-work laws. The key findings:
- Workers’ incomes rise when right-to-work laws are in place;
- Real personal income over the duration the study grew by 123 percent across the United States, but RTW states saw a much faster growth rate of 165 percent, while non-RTW only saw below average growth of 99 percent;
- Had non-RTW states adopted RTW laws in 1977, the first year of the period analyzed, annual income levels would be an estimated $3,000 per person higher in 2012, or more than $13,000 for a family of four;
- The total estimated income loss in 2012 from the lack of RTW laws was $647.8 billion.
RTW not only provides increased worker freedom, makes unions accountable to membership, and grows the economy, it is extremely popular among the public. A number of recent polls show that a majority of Americans support RTW.
A 2014 national Gallup poll found 71 percent of respondents would vote in favor of RTW. A 2014 poll conducted by National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW), asked: “Should employees have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union?” In Missouri, 79 percent of participants answered yes. A May 2015 poll conducted by the Missouri Alliance for Freedom, in collaboration with former Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones, found that 54 percent of Missourians support right-to-work, with 35 percent opposed and 11 percent undecided.
Missouri lawmakers have the chance to make history and give Show-Me State workers the freedom they deserve. Enacting right-to-work would send a signal to citizens and taxpayers that worker freedom takes priority over the special interests of labor unions.