So-Called "Right-to-Work"

Misleadingly named right-to-work (RTW) laws do not, as some unfamiliar with the term may assume, entail any guarantee of employment for people ready and willing to go to work. Rather, by making it harder for workers’ organizations to sustain themselves financially, state RTW laws aim to undermine unions’ bargaining strength. Because RTW laws lower wages and benefits, weaken workplace protections, and decrease the likelihood that employers will be required to negotiate with their employees, they  are advanced as a strategy for attracting new businesses to a state. But EPI research shows that RTW laws do not have any positive impact on job growth.


Fast Facts: “Right-to-Work” Won’t Boost West Virginia’s Economy

“Right-to-Work” laws do not guarantee jobs for workers. Instead they prohibit unions and employers from including a provision in contracts that requires employees who benefit from union representation to pay for their fair share toward those costs. PDF of Fast Facts.

Some state lawmakers argue that if West Virginia adopted a so-called “right-to-work” (RTW) law it would boost job growth, workforce participation and manufacturing in the state. But that theory is built on relationships that do not exist and a misunderstanding of the evidence. The most rigorous analysis shows RTW laws have no significant impact on state economic growth but do lead to lower wages, less benefits, and a decrease in unionization.

So-Called Right to Work and the next generation

Many of us who fight for workers’ rights and good jobs know that So-Called Right-to-Work (SCRTW) is wrong for workers.

SCRTW laws allow workers in unionized businesses to benefit from a union contract without paying union dues. It’s like allowing someone to belong to a health club without paying membership fees – of course, some will take advantage of the offer. The problem for the health club is that, with less membership fees, it’s harder to keep up the equipment or pay the trainer.

It’s the same with a union, which won’t be able to maintain the staff needed to negotiate a good contract or provide other services to members.

These laws are designed to weaken unions and they do. A rigorous study, published in 2011, found that SCRTW reduced wages and cut health care and pensions for union and non-union workers. The study also shows so-called right-to-work laws have no impact on economic growth.

Unions are explaining why SCRTW is wrong, but we should say more about what SCRTW would mean for young people, from first-graders to recent college graduates.