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How to shoot yourself in the foot

Republican voting union members experience their own wages going down with Right-to-Work

Brian Young's picture
Apr 20, 2017

Across the country, anti-union forces like the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) and the Koch Brothers have tried to sell the idea that so called Right to Work laws are actually good for workers.  Now a new study finds that Right to Work (RTW) laws not only lower the union rate in the state, but they also lower the overall wages.

A new report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute looked at the effect that RTW laws in Michigan, Indiana and Wisconsin had, and compared the economic changes to 3 surrounding states with similar economies but no Right to Work laws; those states include Illinois, Ohio and Minnesota. What they found was striking.  The study, which looked at data from 2010-2016 found that in three states with collective bargaining, wages were 8% higher than the three RTW states.  The study also found that these laws caused a 2% drop in the overall union rates in the state. This study isn’t an anomaly either.  Studies have consistently found that RTW reduces employees’ wages by 2-4% on average.

So, who was hit hardest by the move to rid these states of collective bargaining? Workers in construction saw the biggest pay cut.  The study found that their hourly wages dropped almost 6%.  Police officers and fire fighters also saw pay cuts of 3%.  Industries that have workers who went to college but don’t have advanced degrees also faced 3% pay cuts. These pay cuts are especially disturbing because these jobs and education levels are often pathway positions to the middle class.

While middle class employees are making less, owners and management have not been effected.  Over the last 6 years their wages have stayed the same, while almost everyone else has seen them decrease.  The same people who sold RTW as good for the worker are the only ones doing okay from it.  Another study from Hofstra University found that when RTW is implemented in a state, 2% of the income in the state is redistributed from the employees to the owners.

Interestingly, the people who were hit hardest by RTW were the union members who were most likely to vote for these anti-union politicians.  Construction, Police, Fire and Teachers all saw wage cuts that were greater than the money they saved in union dues. Construction workers can expect their wages to fall even further in Wisconsin as the state has recently gotten rid of Project Labor Agreements (PLA’s) that require public works projects to pay a prevailing wage.

Over the last few years, RTW has expanded out of the South and into the Midwest.  Now Trump is pushing a national RTW law.

Make America Great Again.