Deadline Now: Right to Work

Deadline Now: Right to Work

Friday, March 22, 2013

Michigan's right to work law is about to go into effect. And Ohio may soon become a so-called right to work state. What do such laws mean to jobs, job creation, organized labor, the middle class, and the economy? Chris Littleton, an Ohio right to work activist, and Chris Michalakis, President of the Metropolitan Detroit AFL-CIO, are this week's guests.

Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

There are a number of good studies as to what effect right to work laws have on job creation, and we can definitely say this: They are inconclusive.

Some studies show right to work laws have had a positive effect on job creation.Others show no effect. We can’t say anything about Michigan, since the law is just now going into effect there. Two things are statistically certain. Unemployment is slightly lower in right to work states, on average, though this varies. But workers in right to work states make somewhat less money, again on average, than those in states that have union shops.

The nation is now split almost half and half between right to work states – there are now twenty four of those – and the twenty six states where the union shop is allowed. By the way, there’s often a lot of confusion as to what right to work means.

Some incorrectly believe that when you don’t have right to work, employees can be forced to join a union. That’s not true; the so-called union shop was outlawed a long time ago.

What you can have in states like Ohio is a union shop, where, if employees have voted for a union, workers have to either join that union or pay the equivalent of dues, since the union has been recognized by the employer as the bargaining agent.

Right to work supporters say that should be illegal, that nobody should be forced to pay dues to a group they don’t want to join. Opponents say that’s nonsense, that in fact, those who don’t pay dues are freeloaders who benefit from union-negotiated contracts without paying the cost of winning them.

There are also two historical factors worth mentioning. Labor unions have unquestionably improved the lives of American workers and brought millions into the middle class. At the same time, some unions in some places have been a drag on progress and productivity, and have sometimes been corrupt.

There’s another interesting factor here. If you look at a map showing the right to work states, it looks almost identical to a map of which states voted Republican in the last presidential election.

All but five right to work states voted for Romney; all but five non-right to work states voted for Obama. For most people, I suspect how they stand on right to work has less to do with objective facts, than how they feel about unions.