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Are unions still relevant in RTW states? (Read More…)

Monday, January 16, 2017
Chris Woodward (

An economist says despite what union bosses say, evidence shows that workers in states with right-to-work laws are better off, as are the states themselves.

Last week, Kentucky became the 27th right-to-work state and Missouri lawmakers began debating the idea. The moves come after several states recently made the switch from “forced unionism states” to right-to-work states. Membership in private sector unions is also much lower today than it was decades ago.

“There was a time when unions did do a lot of this ‘push’ for policies that we needed to help protect workers, especially low-income workers,” says Aparna Mathur, an economist for center-right American Enterprise Institute. “But now, with all the federal legislation that we’re seeing along that front with companies ... coming up with policies that they view are beneficial for their employees, I think the role of unions have declined.”

Labor groups like the AFL-CIO maintain that right-to-work laws are deceptive and that workers need someone arguing on their behalf.
“By many measures, quality of life is worse in states with right-to-work laws,” AFL-CIO contends on its website. “Wages are lower, people are less likely to have health insurance and the necessary resources for a quality education, poverty levels are higher as are workplace fatality rates.”

Supporters of right-to-work laws, however, say this isn’t true. According to Mathur, right-to-work states benefit from policies that forced unionism states do not offer.

“There is some evidence that suggests that since businesses are much more likely to invest in states that have right-to-work laws, you do see employment gains and you do see average wages going up,” she explains.

“There are a lot of people also who would argue that if you don’t have unionization then wages are actually lower,” she continues, “and there is some contention about what the wage impacts are and what the employment impacts are – but generally, if you view how businesses view these policies, it does seem to be the case that more companies, more firms are likely to move to these areas.”

As a result, Mathur says it’s hard to imagine that there aren’t positive impacts on employment and wages as a result of these policies, even if the literature is somewhat divided on this issue.

“In my own analysis, we were looking at the impact of right-to-work laws on income inequality,” she offers, “because a lot of times we hear the argument that [in] states that have right-to-work laws, you know, income inequality should widen because somehow lower-income workers are worse off because of the union decline – and what we found is that there is really no impact on income inequality.”

In fact, Mathur says it seems to suggest that with the positive influence on investment and jobs and so on, states should be better off as a result of these policies.

Posted by Admin on 01/16 at 12:01 PM