Why Ohio Should Be Wary of So-Called “Right to Work” Laws

Today’s big story is the move by a lame duck Michigan legislature to rush through so-called “right to work” (SCRTW) legislation, barring public and private sector unions from requiring members to pay dues. The move is expected to undermine the influence of unions over time as contracts expire and membership declines.

Yesterday, Gov. Kasich indicated that SCRTW is “not a priority” in Ohio. But that was what Michigan Governor Rick Snyder said earlier this year. He changed his tune quickly in the face of corporate money and a dwindling GOP majority. The result is a rushed bill passed and signed before a new legislature takes office next month.

Regardless of Kasich’s claims of disinterest, Ohioans should be wary of future attempts to bring SCRTW to Ohio.

Studies have investigated the claims of SCRTW supporters, looking at states that have adopted these policies and found they are not good for workers or a state’s economic health.

In a definitive analysis on the subject, researchers at the Economic Policy Institute looked at a state’s SCRTW status, controlling for other factors such as cost of living, demographics, educational levels, industry composition and found that, compared to non-SCRTW states, wages were lower and employers were less likely to offer paid benefits like healthcare and pensions.

A 50-state review by political economist Gordon Lafer found that there was no correlation between states with SCRTW laws and unemployment rates, per capita income or overall job growth. In fact, when it was published in September 2011, seven of the 10 highest-unemployment states had SCRTW laws.

These findings confirm — so-called “right to work” laws would be more appropriately named “right to work for less,” as wages and benefits are lower and economic growth is unchanged in states with these laws on the books.