Thanks for the graphics to Henry Payne - December 10, 2012 Townhall Cartoons
Recent legislation in Michigan has heightened my interest in the “right to work” concepts, the contributions of labor unions to the country over the years and the ability for the two (unions and right to work) to coexist in current economy,
I have been researching the subjects and have found that there are sources that support each side of the issue, that people in all areas of the country have strong opinions on the matter and that there is little chance of changing a person’s opinion.
What makes a state “right to work” and how many of the United States are currently right to work states? A “right to work” state is a state that has enacted legislation that makes it illegal for a worker to be compelled, as a condition of initial or continued employment to join a union or to pay dues to a union.
The right of a state to make the decision to be a right to work state or not was established by the Taft Hartley Act and with the recent legislation passed in Michigan there are 24 right to work states among the 50 United States.
There are a few terms that are important to the discussion of right to work versus total unionization.
The National Labor Relations Act provides that employees are free to organize and collectively bargain with employers through representatives of their own choosing.
A Union Shop is a place of work where employers may hire nonunion workers who must join a labor union within an agreed time.
A Closed Shop is a place of work where membership in a union is a condition for being hired and for continued employment
An Open Shop is a place of work where employees are not required to join a labor union
Right to Work legislation enables states to require that businesses be operated as “open shops” and may preclude the non-union members from being required to pay union dues or administration fees.
On average how much are union dues? I am sure there are many sources and many numbers that can be found in answer to this question, but I found a source that showed the average to be slightly less than $400 per year in 2009 with a variance from $200 to $830 and I would expect that it has probably risen a little in the past few years.
Average wage in “right to work” state versus non right to work state is a much bandied statistic with the average hourly wage being lower in right to work states, but one must also consider that the cost of living is also lower in most of the right to work states. The lower cost of living means that some of the lower average wage is accounted for by market conditions and not the presence or absence of unionization.
I also noted in my reading that unemployment tends to be a little lower in “right to work” states. This gives some credence to the argument that while people are working for slightly less in wages, there are more people working which is better for the overall economy.
I found conflicting information on the actual effect on overall economic growth, though some studies indicate that right to work states are attracting businesses looking to control operating costs.
After considerable reading, listening and watching, I have come to the conclusion that I am not sure that I understand all of the positive and negatives of unionization and right-to-work and need to do more personal research on the matter.