This afternoon, congressional Republicans are expected to introduce a bill to bar unions from requiring the workers they represent to pay the equivalent of union dues. This is already the law in 27 states, and the results are clear: lower wages and less bargaining power for working people. Wages are 3.1 percent lower in so-called “right-to-work” states, for union and nonunion workers alike, even after accounting for differences in cost of living, demographics, and labor market characteristics.
Unions keep wages high for nonunion workers for several reasons: union agreements set wage standards and a strong union presence prompts managers to keep wages high in order to prevent workers from organizing or their employees from leaving. Moreover, unions have been powerful advocates for raising the minimum wage, improving unemployment insurance, and strengthening health and safety standards, which benefit all working people—unionized or not.
The decades-long assault on unions has eroded workers’ ability to bargain for higher wages, better benefits, and safer working conditions. The result has been stagnant wages and an increasing share of the national income going to the top. Simply put, this legislation will further weaken unions and the workers they represent while continuing to strengthen corporate profits for shareholders and CEOs. Working people would do well to ask why congressional Republicans have made this, instead of addressing wage stagnation and inequality, their priority.