Will Michigan's right-to-work law help the state? No

No: Employment, wages will decline
2013-01-07T00:00:00Z 2013-01-07T06:55:22Z Will Michigan's right-to-work law help the state? No Arizona Daily Star
January 07, 2013 12:00 am

"Right-to-work" laws confer no rights and create no work - they're an attempt by employers and the politicians they bankroll to keep workers unorganized, unrepresented and underpaid.

"Right-to-work" proponents claim to be fighting "forced unionism." But under current federal law, no worker is required to join a labor union.

That same federal law, however, requires unions to represent everyone at a given workplace - member or not - in contract negotiations and in settling work-related problems with employers.

Since it's obviously not fair for dues-paying union members to pick up the tab for services provided to nonunion members, nonmembers are sometimes charged a service, or "agency," fee. None of the money collected in agency fees can be used for political, social or any other activities besides employment representation.

So in reality "right-to-work" is "right-to-freeload" - to get a very valuable service, union representation, without paying.

And make no mistake: Union representation is valuable. Through hard bargaining over many decades, unions helped create the great American middle class. They've been the only real curb on the concentration of economic and political power in this country.

As proof, consider that as labor has declined in influence in the last few decades under fierce attack by big money interests, we've seen the progress of the middle class stalled and the nation's wealth gap widen.

But because unions still do a good enough job of making sure the economy works for their middle-class members, the economic elite would like them destroyed.

"Right to work" is their favored tool. And it's effective. After all, if workers can get free union services under "right-to-work" laws, why would anyone pay dues? As dues decline, so does the strength of the union, until it finally disappears.

Proponents of so-called "right-to-work" laws argue that enactment will lead to economic growth through a more business-friendly environment. Study after study has found this claim to be untrue.

A 2011 study by Gordon Lafer of the University of Oregon and Sylvia Allegretto of the University of California at Berkeley found that "right-to-work" laws have not positively impacted job growth. The study found that unemployment had doubled in Oklahoma since the 2001 enactment of right-to-work and that new business arrivals had actually declined.

The study also found that the lower wages and economic insecurity of workers in "right-to-work" states could make business less inclined to relocate because of declining tax revenues and consumer demand.

Studies like this and a simple comparison of employment rates and wages between "right-to-work" states and non-"right-to-work" states makes it fairly certain that Michigan will not reap any economic rewards from the new law.


Editor's note

Every Monday we offer pro/con pieces from the McClatchy-Tribune News Service to give readers a broad view of issues.

Don Kusler is executive director of Americans for Democratic Action. Website: www.adaction.org

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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