Labor union activists often push back against right-to-work laws with the quip, “Right-to-work for less.” Their claim that right-to-work lowers wages has made many state legislators hesitant to vote for the anti-union laws. But new research from the conservative Heritage Foundation counters the claim that right-to-work decreases wages.
Right-to-work laws prohibit an employer from forcing employees to join a union or pay union dues.
“When living costs are fully taken into account, private-sector workers in RTW states enjoy real wages equivalent to those in non-RTW states,” Heritage Research Fellow James Sherk writes in an issue brief published Tuesday. “Policymakers considering RTW legislation may do so confident that it will have no negative impact on private-sector wages.”
A surface-level analysis may make it seem as if right-to-work leads to lower wages. States with right-to-work laws do have lower wages than non-right-to-work states, but right-to-work states also have lower costs of living. Virginia is the only right-to-work state with a higher cost of living than the national average.
After adjusting for differences in costs of living, private sector wages in right-to-work states and non-right-to-work states are virtually equal, according to Sherk’s analysis.
Here’s the map of right-to-work states:
I don’t really mind unions if they stay out of politics. My problem is when they get into politics and line themselves up with Democrats on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage. If the labor unions get involved in pushing for abortion and gay marriage, then it makes sense to pass these right to work laws. Every time a worker chooses not to join a union, it means that unions get less money to donate to Democrats at election time. Every little bit helps, and the workers can use the money better than any union executive can.
He has a diary up at Red State, the grassroots conservative web site, where he explains why he did it.
When I took office as governor of Wisconsin in 2011, I called together our new Republican majority in the legislature and told them it was time to “put up or shut up.” As the elected leaders of our state, we owed it to our fellow Wisconsinites to follow through with our promises and to tackle the big issues head on.
Our first order of business was reclaiming power for the people of our state. For too long, the big government union bosses had called the shots in our state capital.
At the time, Wisconsin faced a $3.6 billion budget shortfall. We needed to reduce spending, yet collective bargaining by public employees had limited the ability of taxpayers and local governments to control that spending. Taxpayers picked up the tab for all pension contributions and most health insurance contribution. The unions even had a virtual monopoly on schools’ health insurance business by having negotiated requirements to use a union-owned insurance company. Unions didn’t even have to collect their own dues—taxpayers footed the bill for that too.
To change all this, we enacted legislation that became known as Act 10.This is the bill that prompted all the protests in our capitol building and even in front of my personal home. But for all the attention, it was really pretty commonsense legislation.
With Act 10, we reformed the collective bargaining laws so that public employees now make modest contributions to their healthcare and pensions—much like private sector employees. Public employees can now decide for themselves whether to join a union. And while unions can still collectively bargain for wages, they can’t bargain over things like the size of bulletin boards or getting paid time off for union business.
Act 10 also allowed local governments and districts to pay employees based on merit and not just seniority. Teachers can get raises and promotions for a doing a good job—not just being there the longest. Taxpayers get a better deal because local governments can shop around for the most affordable employee insurance plans.
Because Act 10 freed up funds for school districts, fewer have had to lay off teachers. In fact, the three districts with the most teacher layoffs following Act 10 were ones that did not adopt the reforms.
In short, Act 10 ensured that the state government treated taxpayers fairly and spent tax dollars more effectively. While the D.C.-based special interests have attacked us for it, the people of Wisconsin like what they see. We have been re-elected three times in four years.
Now we are once again presented with another chance at big and bold reform—taking on the special interests a second time. Yesterday, the Wisconsin state Senate passed Freedom to Work legislation, which will mean no Wisconsin worker can be forced to join a union as a condition of employment. I will sign the bill into law.
I’ve supported Freedom to Work for years, dating back to my time in the state legislature when I co-sponsored it. And now the people of Wisconsin have voiced their support through their state Senators and representatives. According to polling, 69 percent of Wisconsinites support the policy, and a majority of union households—51 percent—also support the law.
Here’s why I’m signing Freedom to Work in Wisconsin: it is good for economic growth. In the last decade, forced unionization states have had about half the rate of wage growth, job growth and manufacturing growth as Right to Work states. Adjusted for cost of living, employees in forced unionization states have almost $2,000 less disposable income. Bottom line, this reform is pro-freedom and pro-work for Wisconsin.
Here’s the right-to-work map now:
Please see below to learn more about Scott Walker. If you look over the stories below, you can see how he took an incremental approach to getting the support for this law. First, reformed collective bargaining, to prevent unions signing deals with health care providers they own, etc. Second, cut off automatic deduction of union dues, to force unions to spend their own money to collect the dues, further limiting their ability to interfere in politics. Third, pass this right-to-work law, to allow conservative blue-collar mid-Westerners to work a job without having to shell out money to the unions. The law passed with a majority of union households supporting it. They want their take-home pay! Walker is sitting in a blue state that has gone for Democrats in every presidential election since 1984. He knows how to get conservative reforms passed – by chipping away at his opponents and building consensus.
Get caught up!
The Weekly Standard has an excellent re-cap on Walker’s accomplishments as governor. If you don’t know Walker’s history in Wisconsin, please read it!
Which is that Scott Walker is a very bad man. And not merely because he opposes the progressive agenda and would like to roll back its successes. Hell, all kinds of right wing pols want to do that. Or say they do, anyway. You shake a Republican tree and half-a-dozen of them fall to the ground, talking about repealing this and defunding that. But Scott Walker is unusual, maybe even unique, and recalls the old joke about the graduate student out doing sociological research on religion in the rural South. He comes upon an old son of the soil and after a bit of conversation to soften him up, says delicately, “I’m wondering, sir, since you are a religious man, if you believe in Baptism by immersion.”
The old fellow squints and spits and says. “Believe in it? Hell, sonny, I seen it done.”
When it comes to rolling back the progressive agenda, you see, Walker has actually done it. That’s what the recall election was about. His enemies, many of whom still bear the tread marks of his tires on their backs, know that he is not another hapless Republican who makes it his business to raise taxes to pay for the excesses of the other party and calls that good government. Instead of enabling bloated government, he takes it on.
Walker’s appeal, one suspects, is based on a sense among the demoralized citizenry that government at all levels lives high, doesn’t deliver, and fears no man.
There is a reason that people like this guy. He talks moderate, and then mauls his opponents in horrible ways. I almost feel sorry for them, except not really. We have an $18.5 trillion dollar debt, and we need to have a grown-up at the helm in 2016.
Wisconsin is poised this week to become the 25th “right-to-work state,” ending forced unionization and allowing individual workers to decide if they want to join a union or not.
The Wisconsin Senate just recently passed right-to-work, and our sources in Madison say that the House, which is controlled by Republicans, will enact a similar law in the days ahead.
Republican Gov. Scott Walker, a leading presidential candidate, is sure to sign the bill when it gets to his desk. “This isn’t anti-union,” insists Walker. “It restores worker rights and brings jobs back to Wisconsin.”
Some 3,000 liberal protesters stormed the Capitol in Madison over the weekend to reverse the momentum for the new law. This isn’t Walker’s first dust-up with union bosses. Four years ago, nearly 100,000 activists grabbed nationwide headlines when they protested his reforms in Wisconsin’s collective bargaining process with public employee unions.
If the new law passes, Wisconsin would join two other blue-collar, industrial Midwestern states — Michigan and Indiana — to recently adopt right-to-work. “If you had told me five years ago that right-to-work would become law in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin, I wouldn’t have thought it was even remotely possible,” says economist Arthur Laffer.
Laffer and I have conducted substantial economic research showing three times the pace of jobs gains in right-to-work states than in the states with forced union rules that predominate in deep blue states such as California, New York and Illinois.
In the 2003-13 period, jobs were up by 8.6% in right-to-work states, and up only 3.7% in forced union states. Most of the southern states, with the exception of Kentucky, are right-to-work
Many auto jobs in recent decades have moved out of Michigan and Ohio and into states such as Texas, Alabama and South Carolina, due in part to right-to-work laws in Dixie.
But as union power recedes in the Midwestern states, many of the region’s governors see factory jobs returning to their backyards. “Right to work is already lowering unemployment in Indiana and causing a manufacturing revival here,” says Gov. Mike Pence.
Companies are more attracted to right-to-work states, and that means more jobs become available.
Here is Congressional testimony from James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at The Heritage Foundation. I really recommend bookmarking this article. Even though it is very long, it is up-to-date and comprehensive. I am linking to it because he responds to objections to right-to-work laws raised by unions.
Do right-to-work laws hurt the middle class?:
Union Strength and the Middle Class. Unions and their supporters frequently claim the opposite: that unions helped build the middle class and weaker unions hurt all workers—not just union members. To make this point they often juxtapose the decline of union membership since the late 1960s with the share of income going to the middle class. The Economic Policy Institute did exactly this when criticizing the possibility of RTW in Wisconsin. These comparisons suffer from two problems. First, the absolute standards of living for middle-class workers have risen substantially over the past generation. Inflation-adjusted market earnings rose by one-fifth for middle-class workers between 1979 and 2011. After-tax incomes rose at an even faster pace. Middle-class workers today enjoy substantially higher standards of living than their counterparts in the 1970s.
Secondly, these figures conflate correlation with causation. During the time period EPI examined union membership correlates well with their measure of middle-class income shares. Extending the graph back another two decades eliminates this correlation. U.S. union density surged in the late 1930s and during World War II. It peaked at about a third of the overall economy and private-sector workforce in the mid-1950s. During this time period America had few global competitors. From the mid-1950s onward global competition increased and U.S. union membership steadily declined. Between 1954 and 1970 union density dropped from 34.7 percent to 27.3 percent. Unions lost over a fifth of their support in just over a decade and a half.
During this period middle-class income and living standards grew rapidly. No one remembers the 1950s and 1960s as bad for the middle class, despite the substantial de-unionization that occurred. Over a longer historical period changes in U.S. union strength show little correlation with middle-class income shares. Liberal analysts come to their conclusion by looking only at the historical period in which the two trends align.
Do right-to-work states have lower wages?:
Unions Argue RTW Hurts Wages. In the same vein, unions argue that RTW laws lower wages. As the Wisconsin AFL-CIO recently claimed:
These anti-worker Right To Work laws just force all working families to work harder for lower pay and less benefits, whether they’re in a union or not. The average worker makes about $5,000 less and pensions are lower and less secure in Right to Work states.
This statement contains a degree of truth: average wages in right-to-work states are approximately that much lower than in non-RTW states. This happens because right-to-work states also have below-average costs of living (COL). Virtually the entire South has passed RTW, but no Northeastern states have passed an RTW law. The Northeast has higher COL and higher average wages; the South has lower living costs and lower wages.
[…]All but one right-to-work state has living costs at or below the national average. All ten of the states with the highest COL have compulsory union dues. Analyses that control for these COL differences have historically found that RTW has no deleterious effects on workers’ real purchasing power.
Recently the Economic Policy Institute has claimed that workers in RTW states make 3 percent less than workers without RTW protection, even after controlling for living costs. Heritage replicated this analysis and found that EPI made two major mistakes: it included improper control variables and did not account for measurement error in their COL variables. These mistakes drive their results. Correcting these mistakes shows that private-sector wages have no statistically detectable correlation with RTW laws. The supplement and the appendices to this testimony explain the technical details of this replication. Properly measured, RTW laws have no effect on wages in the private sector.
Although the history of unions shows that unions were a valuable and necessary check on the power of greedy corporations in times past, today unions are using the dues they collect from workers to elect Democrats. The vast majority of political contributions made by the big unions go to Democrats.
So if you oppose what Democrat politicians are doing, it makes sense to free workers from being forced to pay union dues for causes that are against their values. The average rank-and-file member of a union does not share Democrat values on things like abortion and gay marriage, in my opinion. Why should they be forced to pay union dues that go to elect politicians who oppose their values?
What kinds of bills do Republicans pass? Let’s take a look at a couple.
The first story is about North Dakota Republican Senator John Hoeven, and it’s from the Washington Times.
Senators approved the Keystone XL pipeline in a momentous vote Thursday as nine Democrats bucked their party leaders and joined Republicans in backing the long-stalled project, setting up an eventual showdown with President Obama, who has vowed a veto.
The vote marks the first major accomplishment for the Senate Republican majority, who carefully selected the pipeline to put at the top of the agenda in hopes of preparing Democrats for even bigger tests with Mr. Obama.
“This took a bipartisan effort to get done. That’s what the people want,” said Sen. John Hoeven, the North Dakota Republican who sponsored the legislation.
The 62-36 vote is a high-water mark for the pipeline, which had never before cleared the Senate on a binding vote, and just two months ago fell to a Democratic filibuster.
The bill still must be combined with a House version that passed the chamber this month before it heads to Mr. Obama.
This is a bill that creates jobs, lowers the price of gas, makes us less dependent on foreign sources of oil and it doesn’t harm the environment.
Having a job is good because when you earn your own success, you are usually happier than you would be receiving money from the government. Lower gas prices are good, because you can spend the money you safe on useful things, like date night with your wife, or maybe a gift for your mom or dad. Making us less dependent on foreign oil is good, because some of these nations we buy oil from don’t like us very much, and that’s putting it nicely. We really should not be buying oil from Venezuela, for example. And finally, it’s a good idea to conserve nature as it is, because we all like animals, trees, flowers, etc., and we should keep it all clean. A pipeline is safer for moving oil than using trains – fewer environmental disasters.
Sen. Ted Cruz wants to protect taxpayers from political targeting by the Internal Revenue Service. The Texas Republican introduced legislation yesterday making it crime to engage in such behavior as questions still linger about the full extent of the IRS scandal.
This is not the first time Cruz has offered this type of legislation. In February 2014, he introduced amendments to the STOP Identity Theft Act. Those measures, however, were defeated by Democrats and did not make it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“Free speech is not a partisan issue. The IRS has no business meddling with the First Amendment rights of Americans,” Cruz said during last year’s debate.
With a new Republican Senate majority, Cruz is hopeful that this time the language will pass independently as a bill. In a press release, Cruz blasted the lack of action by President Obama and his administration in response to the IRS scandal.
“In May 2013, President Obama declared the IRS’s illegal targeting of conservative groups ‘intolerable and inexcusable,’ yet to this date no one has been held accountable for it,” Cruz said in a statement.
Cruz’s bill would make it a crime for any IRS employee to willfully target anyone based solely on political beliefs. Any employee found in violation would be subject to a fine, up to 10 years in prison, or both.
“This is a well thought out amendment to the IRS code to try and deter and punish the type of naked political targeting engaged in by Lois Lerner and other IRS employees,” said Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the election law reform initiative and senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation.
I think it’s a good idea for government not to be used as a weapon to punish people who want less government and more freedom. Don’t you?
Last one is about Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa, as reported by Doug Ross.
“We’re extremely pleased that Congressman King has introduced the National Right to Work Act, intensifying a growing debate about labor law and worker freedom in our country. This legislation would enshrine the common-sense principle – already enforced in nearly half of U.S. states – that no worker should be compelled to join or pay dues to a union just to get or keep a job.
“In an age of legislative overreach, this is one of the shortest bills ever introduced. A National Right to Work Act does not add a single word to federal law. It simply removes language in the National Labor Relations Act that gives union officials the power to extract dues from nonunion workers as a condition of employment.
“Voluntary association is a quintessential American ideal and the case for Right to Work has always rested on the principles of employee freedom, but passage of a National Right to Work law will also pay economic dividends. Studies demonstrate that workers in Right to Work states enjoy greater private sector job growth and higher disposable incomes than their counterparts in states without Right to Work protections.
“The Right to Work principle is also popular with the public. Polls consistently show that 80 percent of Americans and union members support the principle of voluntary unionism.
“A National Right to Work Act enshrines worker freedom while providing significant economic benefits for workers. The National Right to Work Committee is mobilizing its 2.8 million members to call on their Congressperson to support the National Right to Work Act.”
Evidence shows that right-to-work states are more attractive to job creators, which results in lower unemployment in states that adopt right-to-work.
A group of California teachers is preparing for a Supreme Court battle to overturn forced union dues in a groundbreaking lawsuits filed in June.
For nearly three decades, the Supreme Court has allowed closed-shop unionism, in which public employees must pay dues to labor groups handling collective bargaining negotiations.
The Supreme Court established Beck Rights in 1988 allowing workers to opt out of union dues for political activities, while continuing to pay for union negotiating expenses. The teachers are hoping to take that battle one step further by putting an end to all coercive union dues.
Ten California schoolteachers are challenging California’s policy of forcing all public employees to pay union dues for collective bargaining. The Center for Individual Rights (CIR) is aiding their suit. The CIR views the issue through the lens of the Constitution, rather than as a contest of labor policy.
“Our efforts are not anti-union; we are trying to solidify the First Amendment rights of public employees to freely assemble,” CIR president Terry Pell said.
The plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction on Tuesday asking the court to waive the teachers’ union dues during the ongoing trial. Pell is certain the motion will fail, which is all the better for the plaintiffs because it will “fast-track” the litigation to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and eventually the Supreme Court.
“This is a piece of strategic litigation—we’re trying to get the issue of compulsory union dues to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible,” he said. “We know that lower courts can’t overrule Supreme Court precedent, but this will expedite us through the system.”
The Roberts court opened the door to ending coercive unionism last year when it ruled 5-4 that Service Employees International Union improperly charged non-union members for political activities. Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority in Knox v. Service Employees International Union, said the forced dues on non-union members were “indefensible”
One of the biggest problems with California is the stranglehold that public sector unions have on the state. This would be a good first step to getting the state to turn around. Even liberals stop paying dues when it’s not mandatory, because they want to keep their own money just like anyone does.