Right to Work: ‘Bad Economics and Cynical Politics’

A New York Times editorial hit the mark Sunday when it castigated Republican lawmakers for pushing so-called right to work (RTW) laws in states like Indiana and correctly connected this anti-worker agenda with a similar assault on voting rights. Both moves are financed by a little-known organization funded by extremists like the Koch brothers.

Many Republican leaders are adopting model legislation proposed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a national corporate-financed conservative organization that is also assisting the Republican push to require voter identification cards to suppress the vote of minorities, young people and other constituencies that tend to favor the Democratic Party.

The editorial points out how the assault is one that undercuts workers’ most valuable asset: their strength in numbers to bargain collectively for a fair deal at the workplace and to mobilize together to elect lawmakers who will back working families. RTW laws undermine all that and, in doing so, cut at the economic underpinning of America’s middle class.

…over the last three decades, economists have found that unionization has a minimal impact on growth and employment in an entire state or country. In fact, six of the 10 states with the highest unemployment have right to work laws. North Carolina, a right to work state, has a private-sector unionization rate of 1.8 percent, the lowest in the nation. It also has the sixth highest unemployment rate: 10 percent.

Unionized workers earn more and get more generous benefits. In 2010, wages of workers in unionized manufacturing companies in Indiana were 16 percent higher than in nonunion plants. One study concluded that the decline in unionization since the 1970s is responsible for one-fifth to one-third of the growth in inequality in this country. Voters, unionized or not, should recognize the new “right to work” push for what it is: bad economics and cynical politics.