Right to Work Laws Part 5 – Social Issues Series



This term “right to work” has been bandied about for a while now.  Since it actually sounds like something good – the ability to help people get a job maybe? I was curious about it, what it actually means, and where it has come from.  I found the following explanation of this term on at http://www.nrtw.org/rtws.htm

“A Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for themselves whether or not to join or financially support a union. However, employees who work in the railway or airline industries are not protected by a Right to Work law, and employees who work on a federal enclave may not be. Moreover, a Right to Work law does not prohibit limitations on when a dues deduction authorization card can be revoked. Workers should carefully read the fine print before signing such a card.”


In other words, this means that a worker can enjoy all the rights of a union member while at the same time not paying union dues.  You may ask what the point of this is.  Well, the point is to weaken unions by denying them the money needed to run the union.  Now, the next question would be, “does this matter?”  Well, unions have been getting a bad rap from most places lately.  So, let’s ask this question:  “how have unions helped the worker?”


Here are a few things that unions have achieved for the American worker:  the weekend – before unions’ workers often worked an average of 61 hours a week; how about a decrease in wage inequality – at the time when most workers belonged to a union income inequality was at its lowest; child labor was common before unions (although some politicians would like to see it return); http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/2/4/1274794/-GOP-pushes-for-Return-of-Child-Labor



Employer-based health care coverage is another benefit workers have received due to unions; and finally family and medical leave from your work.  There are also lots of other benefits that most employees have that are due to unions, even though they may not belong to a union themselves.


Unions have benefited all workers by forcing laws to regulate safety in the workplace.  Before unions, workers were often killed or injured in the unsafe environments that ran rampant in the workplaces. http://www.aflcio.org/Issues/Job-Safety  OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is the most important part of work-place safety.  Unfortunately there is an on-going effort to dismantle this department.  http://www.politicususa.com/2014/05/23/republican-effort-rollback-workplace-safety-regulations-literally-killing-americans.html

There is an on-going effort to dismantle all unions across the U.S.  In states where this effort has become laws (known as “right to work”), the effects of such laws have had major consequences.  One consequence has been lower wages in states with these laws http://www.epi.org/publication/right-to-work-states-have-lower-wages/  Other consequences include negating the ability of the union in fighting for the worker rights including wages, safety and health.  http://www.epi.org/publication/right-to-work-research/    https://www.workplacefairness.org/unions-right-to-work


Since Right to Work laws cause lower wages, who stands to benefit from these laws?  Is it the worker, who is earning less?  No, that doesn’t make any sense.  So, who does benefit?  Let’s take a wild guess, shall we?  It’s the business owners, of course.  Where does the “research” claiming benefits to workers from right to work come from?  One source is the Heritage Foundation.  I discussed the supporters of these foundations in my Dark Money Series, but will include a few of more links here.




There is also the little known history of the “right to work” movement.  The founder, Vance Muse was a racist oil lobbyist who opposed:  women’s suffrage; ending child labor laws; Catholics as well as other social movements.




What do you think of right to work laws?  Let me know in the comments.



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