Right to Work is a lesson in failure

Sen. Rob Mayer of Dexter, recently argued that Missouri could spur economic development by adopting a right-to-work law, as several low-wage Southern states have. What he doesn’t point out is the people who live in these same Southern states have the lowest standards of living in the country.

They have higher rates of poverty, fewer people with health insurance, higher infant mortality rates, lower education levels and higher job injury and mortality rates. The number of people without health insurance in right-to-work states is rising nearly 70 percent faster than in other states, 3.2 percent compared to 1.9 percent from 2000 to 2009.

Right to work laws lower wages for everyone. The average worker in a right to work state makes about $5,333 a year less than workers in other states ($35,500 compared with $30,167).[1] Weekly wages are $72 greater in free-bargaining states than in right to work states ($621 versus $549).[2] Working families in states without right to work laws have higher wages and benefit from healthier tax bases that improve their quality of life.

According to the federal census poverty data base [3] the  states with the highest percentage of people under the poverty line (2008 numbers) are:

(RTW)Texas: 15.8%
(RTW)Alabama: 15.9%
New Mexico: 17%
(RTW)Arkansas 17.3%
Kentucky: 17.3 %
West Virginia 17.4%
(RTW)Louisiana 17.6 %
(RTW)Mississippi: 20.8%

The US Average is 13.2% and Missouri is at 13.5%.

Federal law already protects workers who don’t want to join a union to get or keep their jobs. Supporters claim right to work laws protect employees from being forced to join unions. Don’t be fooled—federal law already does this, as well as protecting nonmembers from paying for union activities that violate their religious or political beliefs. This individual freedom argument is a sham.

Right to work endangers safety and health standards that protect workers on the job by weakening unions that help to ensure worker safety by fighting for tougher safety rules. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the rate of workplace deaths is 51 percent higher in states with right to work, where unions can’t speak up on behalf of workers.[4]

Our country and the state of Missouri has a serious unemployment crisis and our state needs to create jobs. With 48 out of 50 states losing jobs, we should be working together to demand a responsible industrial policy that helps grow good jobs and rejects ill-advised trade deals that send our jobs overseas. Corporations are sitting on record profits rather than creating jobs and CEOs make record amounts compared to line-level workers.


[1] Average Annual Pay, 2001 from Bureau of Labor Statistics, State average annual pay for 2000 and 2001 and percent change in pay for all covered workers.

[2] U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

[3] US Census Poverty Database http://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/saipe/national.cgi?year=2008&ascii=

[4] Workplace Fatalities from Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect. afl-cio. April 2002.

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