“Right to Work” laws are bullshit. We already have a right to work, that’s what a free market supplies. What “Right to Work” really means is the right for companies in the states that have these laws to compensate their employees as little as the laws possibly allow. It lets them keep from giving employees benefits, and lets them fire employees at any time for no reason without any legal repercussions.
The “Right to Work” laws should be called “The Right for Employers to do Whatever the Fuck the Want” laws.
“Right to Work” is one of those propagandistic phrases, like “Pro Life”, or ‘Voter Protection” that the right uses to make it sound like they are doing something that really is the exact opposite of what they say it is.
According to Wikipedia:
A “right-to-work” law is a statute in the United States of America that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Right-to-work laws exist in twenty-three U.S. states, mostly in the southern and western United States. Such laws are allowed under the 1947 federal Taft–Hartley Act.
Proponents claim that companies in states that have Right to Work laws have higher employment rates. While this is true, many of those jobs pay less than in non-Right to Work states and many are part time.
Here is what Wikipedia has to say about the ills of Right to Work:
Opponents argue that right-to-work laws 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. The absence of fair share fees forces dues paying members to subsidize services to non-union employees (who are bound by the terms of the union contract even though they are not members of the union). Thus, these individuals benefit from collective bargaining without paying union dues.
The AFL-CIO union argues that because unions are weakened by these laws, wages are lowered and worker safety and health is endangered. For these reasons, the union refers to right-to-work states as “right to work for less” states or “right-to-fire” states, and to non-right-to-work states as “free collective bargaining” states.
Business interests led by the Chamber of Commerce lobbied extensively for right-to-work legislation in the Southern states. Critics from organized labor have argued since the late 1970s that while the National Right to Work Committee purports to engage in grass-roots lobbying on behalf of the “little guy”, the National Right to Work Committee was formed by a group of southern businessmen with the express purpose of fighting unions, and that they “added a few workers for the purpose of public relations”.
The unions also contend that the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has received millions of dollars in grants from foundations controlled by major U.S. industrialists like the New York-based Olin Foundation, Inc., which grew out of a family manufacturing business, and other groups.
A final argument against these rules is that they place limits on the sort of agreements private individuals, acting collectively, can make with their employer.
A February 2011 Economic Policy Institute study found:
Wages in right-to-work states are 3.2% lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic variables as well as state macroeconomic indicators. Using the average wage in non-RTW states as the base ($22.11), the average full-time, full-year worker in an RTW state makes about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non-RTW state.
The rate of employer-sponsored health insurance (ESI) is 2.6 percentage points lower in RTW states compared with non-RTW states, after controlling for individual, job, and state-level characteristics. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive ESI at this lower rate, 2 million fewer workers nationally would be covered.
The rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8 percentage points lower in RTW states, using the full complement of control variables in [the study’s] regression model. If workers in non-RTW states were to receive pensions at this lower rate, 3.8 million fewer workers nationally would have pensions.
To be fair, there are other arguments for Right to Work that are stated in that Wikipedia entry and I encourage you to read the whole thing and come to your own conclusions.
I support unions because I believe that it helps all workers, not just those who belong to unions. When I worked for Boeing, I received excellent benefits including health, vacation, and a paid week off between Christmas and New Years. The same was true when I worked for Sun Microsystems. Since I was a salaried employee, I couldn’t join a union, but it was the unions that the hourly wage workers belonged to that helped get all employee these excellent benefits.
Other benefits we have all gained due to unions are the 40 hour work week, paid vacations, health insurance, retirement packages, holidays off, a minimum wage, and a safe work environment. Without unions many workers would still be working 60 hour work weeks in unsafe conditions for pennies an hour.
If you don’t believe that many employers wouldn’t pay you next to nothing, think again. There is a reason many jobs have been moved overseas, because in places like China and India, terrible working conditions and dirt poor wages are the norm.
As it is, families who rely on the bread winner who makes minimum wage are the ones most likely to be in poverty and rely on government assistance programs thereby costing all of us more in taxes, not to mention the drag on the economy from less people spending their income on consumer goods rather than basic subsistence.
If every worker made enough to have extra to spend on goods like TVs, cars, and homes, the economy would boom like it did after WWII when the GI Bill allowed millions to get good educations and good jobs and spend the extra income above subsistence on lots and lots of stuff.
When all of use earn a good wage and benefits, we all benefit.