Another win for the 1%: ‘Right to work’ signed into law in Indiana

When Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a “right-to-work” bill into law on Wednesday, working people and unions lost another battle in the relentless war the 1 percent have been waging against the 99 percent. Right to work (RTW) does not guarantee anyone a job. Rather, it makes it illegal for unions to require that each employee who benefits from a union contract pays his fair share of the costs of administering it. By making it harder for workers’ organizations to sustain themselves financially, RTW aims to undermine unions’ bargaining strength and eventually eliminate them.

MORE: See EPI’s recent research on RTW

Twenty-two states—predominantly in the South —already had right-to-work laws, mostly dating from the McCarthy era. But since the Republican sweep of state legislatures in 2010, a coalition of corporate lobbies, right-wing ideologues and conservative operatives have seized the moment to push RTW into traditionally union-friendly parts of the country. They’ve targeted Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan and New Hampshire for their next campaigns.

RTW is sold as a job creation strategy, but as Gordon Lafer and Sylvia Allegretto have shown, it’s a big lie. In fact, it’s all about cutting wages, which is what happens when unions are weakened or eliminated. The Chamber of Commerce is almost honest about this wage-cutting goal: They explain that “unionization increases labor costs,” and therefore “makes a given location a less attractive place to invest new capital.” Unfortunately, workers do get lower wages from RTW, but the jobs never come. As EPI has shown, the impact of RTW laws is to lower average income by about $1,500 a year and to decrease the odds of getting health insurance or a pension—for both union and non-union workers. Yet when Oklahoma (the last state before Indiana to pass RTW) passed RTW in 2001, the jobs never materialized. The number of companies coming into the state—supposed to increase by “eight to ten times”—instead decreased by 30 percent.

Gov. Daniels and his right-wing allies want workers to believe that RTW will be a big draw for companies making relocation decisions, but surveys show it’s irrelevant, ranking 16th on a list of factors small manufacturers consider. And for higher-tech, higher-wage employers, nine of the 10 most favored states are non-RTW, led by liberal, pro-union Massachusetts.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. warned against “false slogans such as ‘right to work’… . [Whose] purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone.”

The U.S. economy has been squeezing the middle class for decades, with wages stagnating and median household income actually falling over the last decade. RTW is a factor in this decline. It’s time to stand up for decent wages and benefits, to stand up for unions, and to stop the RTW virus from spreading any further.

  • Guest

    Albeit, Unions can do some good, but too much of a good thing in never a good thing. If you are forced to work for a union, it is the same as being forced to work without a union. You can’t pin everything non-socialistic on the 1%. The US is a representative democracy, for a reason, so that we the people can choose what is just and right. Right-to-work passed because the people wanted it too. Unions are fine, too many law making bureaucratic, progressive, unions, breathing down my throat, is a bad thing. 

    • Bkornic

      For your info, the unions had existed in the U.S. A. even while the U.S. was under the Brish rule.  The very first strike ib Boston was by the shoe makers union in 1703-6.  It is the unions that provided the living wage, not the capitalists owners.  read the Toil and Trouble by Thomas R. Brooks.  You have no comprehension as to how much good did the Unions provide for the working class in the world.

  • Angelaheller45

    Unions have their pros and cons like everything does (including people).  UNIONS are needed if we are to ever regain the middle class again.  NO one has ever been forced to join a union and unless someone knows different, I do not see where unions are trying to FORCE anyone to change.  I worked in management for a union company for 24 years.  I understand how union people feel when they go out on strike for better wages, pension, human rights!.  They suffer not only for themselves but for all the people who work.  It would make me angry when people who belonged to their union, or worked for the company without belonging and YET they received all the rights and benefits the union workers fought for.  I have a saying “if these stupid raciest republicans who are the real slaves for their masters put these A-holes in prominent authority were the only people who suffered their stupidity I would be OK, but when the majority of people get hurt by the stupidity of these people then I say NO, JOIN TOGETHER AND WE WILL FIGHT (non violence) AND WE WILL WIN!.

  • How do you define “employee who benefits from a union contract” ?

  • Paul D Krause

    Right to Work should mean:The Right for the employer to provide a safe working environment for the employee.  If the employee dies on the job it is the responsibility to provide the salary to the surviving family forever.  It should be the employer sole responsibility of the employer to provide a safe working environment to the employee. The right for an employee to have a living wage where the employee can live in a safe area to raise a family.  The employee should be able to save for the next generation on their wage.The right for an employee to be retrained because of technology changes at the employer’s expense.  This prevents the worker from loss of work due to obsolete skills.The right for an employee to be permanent relocation or temporary relocation for seasonal employment or business cycle changes in the market at the employer’s expense.  The right to health care benefits for the employee and employee’s family members.The right for an employee to be treated for injuries from work at total cost to the employer.The right for an employee to be retrained because of an injury or relocated to a new area because of an injury at the employer’s expense. The right for an employee to pursue higher education and receive tuition assistance from the employer.The right for an employee to compete with past employer’s business and services upon separation. The right to grieve for the death of any family member or a person of significant meaning in a person’s life without the risk of being fired.These are some real right to work thoughts.