The fact that the Michigan GOP is taking on labor rights by ending closed union shops in the state where the labor movement helped create the middle class is a slap in the face to workers. That Republicans are doing it after Mitt Romney lost the state by 9.5 percent is a reminder of the lasting effects of the 2010 election, when Democrats stayed home and the GOP won the opportunity to redistrict themselves into power for the next decade.
The deceptively named “Right to Work” bill was passed by both state houses and is about to be signed into law without one hearing or any input from citizens. The legislation includes a $1 million appropriation so it cannot be overturned by popular vote, as the Emergency Manager Law was in November.
Labor is still trying to pressure Governor Rick Snyder, who until this lame-duck session had been reluctant to put his signature on a law designed to deflate union power in the heartland of the auto industry. But with multimillionaire Rick DeVos promising to support any Republican who votes for the bill and punish anyone who doesn’t, the bill seems destined to become law.
Find out why so-called “Right to Work” laws hurt all workers and weaken the middle class.
Photo credit: AP Photo/Carlos Osorio
According to the Economic Policy Institute, the average full-time worker in a “Right To Work” state makes about $1,500 less annually than a similar worker in a non-RTW state. That’s not just union workers. That’s every worker earning less as a result of union busting.
“Where unions are strong, compensation increases even for workers not covered by any union contract, as non-union employers face competitive pressure to match union standards,” EPI has found.
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Less Health Care
In RTW states, 2.6 percent fewer workers have health care coverage than states where unions are allowed to automatically deduct dues from paychecks. If every state went in the direction Michigan is headed, two million workers would lose their health care, passing the costs of their care on to the taxpayers.
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The idea of a good middle-class job that includes a pension has largely disappeared with the decline of unions in the United States. Workers in RTW states are 4.8 percent less likely to have a pension.
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More Dangerous Workplaces
In the 2011 study “Right-to-Work Laws and Fatalities in Construction,” University of Michigan researcher Roland Zullo found that RTW laws lead to systematic underfunding of workplace safety and accident prevention training. As a result, the instances of occupational fatalities were 34 percent higher in Right to Work states.
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By now you must be thinking, “There’s gotta be some benefit to this law. How about growth? It’s gotta lead to new jobs…” The Higgins Labor Studies Program at the University of Notre Dame looked at states that recently became RTW and found that growth was higher before they passed the law. In addition, non-RTW states have a higher level of income.
So why, oh why would anyone pursue this policy? Well, corporate profits are at an all-time high and wages are at an all-time low. “Right to Work” (for less) is just another way that the richest conspire to pit workers against each other to rig a system that’s only designed to benefit themselves.
Chart credit: Chris Savage at Eclectablog