“Right-to-Work” Laws in the Midwest Have Reduced Unionization and Lowered Wages

Published by Frank Manzo IV, MPP
APRIL 3, 2017

Recent “right-to-work” laws have had negative consequences for many workers in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute.

The analysis focuses on labor markets in six Midwest states from 2010 through 2016. Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin all enacted “right-to-work” (RTW) laws during this period, providing a regional experiment on the effects of the laws. Three neighboring states- Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio- serve as a comparison group because they did not have RTW laws at the beginning of the time frame and still do not have RTW today.

As of 2016, there were significant differences between the two groups of states. Notably, workers in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin earned 8% less per hour on average than their counterparts in Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio.

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(See PDF of Study Here)

Ky. Legislative update (KY)

By State Rep. Chris Harris
JANUARY 9, 2017

I fought hard during this first week of the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly to protect the interests of Kentucky’s working families against a rising tide of wealthy corporate interests, but in the end, our best efforts were blocked by the new ruling majority in the Kentucky House of Representatives. This week will go down in Kentucky history as one of the most damaging to working people.

Never before in modern times has a legislative session been used to do so much harm in so little time with so few opportunities for public input or debate. No time was wasted by Republican majorities in the House and the Senate to repeal prevailing wage standards in the construction of public projects and to enact what I call “right to work for less” legislation. These measures – affecting thousands of working families in Kentucky, both union and non-union – passed despite our strong objections and repeated attempts to slow the process long enough to let the voices of the people be heard during the legislative process.

Numerous studies and overwhelming data show workers’ wages go down when so-called “right to work” legislation, is passed. There’s a long list of other ills associated with right to work states – less health insurance coverage, poor workplace safety records, and less per capita spending on education, to name a few.

Repealing prevailing wage standards also lowers wages for building and tradesmen, like electricians, pipe fitters, plumbers, and steamfitters employed in public construction projects. These repeals also negatively affect the quality of construction and encourage out-of-state, fly-by-night contractors with employees of questionable training, skills and citizenship.

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Podcast: “Right-to-Work” Regulations and Unions

The Illinois Update
DECEMBER 5, 2016

Episode 3 of For A Living focuses on “right-to-work” laws. The podcast is available on iTunes and on SoundCloud.

What are so-called “right-to-work” laws? What is the historical background of these laws? What are their policy implications for the working class? Where are current political and legal battles occurring?

Professor Robert Bruno, Professor Emily E. LB Twarog, and I are joined by Dale Pierson, a Chicago-area labor lawyer who has served as General Counsel of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 150 since 2002, to answer these questions.

Thanks for listening!

For A Living is an educational podcast jointly provided by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Protect MO Families launches prevailing wage campaign

The Missouri Times
June 24, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – The Committee to Protect MO Families started a new public awareness campaign this week to educate middle class families about the prevailing wage as they prepare for attacks similar to right-to-work.

The campaign launched with a video featuring Danny Burlison, a Navy veteran and and Carpenters Union member. The ads will be run throughout the summer.

Protect MO Families also released a study by Dr. Michael Kelsay, an economics professor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which explains the benefits of a prevailing wage.

Between online components and in-person meetings and other events, the campaign hopes to educated families and Missourians about the benefits of prevailing wage.

Protect MO Families anticipates attacks on prevailing wage becoming the next battleground in the fight over labor rights that’s already seen right-to-work and paycheck protection legislation be narrowly avoided in upheld vetoes.

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(See Full Study Here)

Local Right-to-Work Zones Would Weaken the Illinois Economy

April 6, 2015
Frank Manzo IV, Policy Director
Illinois Economic Polict Institute (ILEPI)

 

Efforts to create local “right-to-work” zones would have negative impacts on workers and the economy in Illinois, according to a new report released today by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The report, The Impact of Local “Right-to-Work” Zones: Predicting Outcomes for Workers, the Economy and Tax Revenues in Illinois (PDF), investigates the economic and policy impacts of adopting local “right-to-work” zones in Illinois, testing claims made by proponents of the ordinances. The report finds that worker incomes are lower in economies with right-to-work laws and that employment effects are inconclusive. For instance, average worker wages are $2.90 per hour (13 percent) higher in Illinois than in right-to-work Indiana. At the same time, the unemployment rate in eastern Illinois counties is lower than in right-to-work counties across the Indiana border in December 2014.

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(Read Full Report here)

With One Case Before State Supreme Court, 2nd IN Judge Rules “Right-to-Work” Unconstitutional

An Indiana Judge has ruled that the state’s “Right-to-Work” law is unconstitutional, the second such blow to the legislation since its passage in 2012.

Lake County Circuit Judge George Paras decided against the state in United Steelworkers vs. Zoeller on July 17th, ruling that the law was “null and void in its entirety” and the state is “permanently enjoined” from enforcing it.  The law is already before the state Supreme Court as a result of a challenge from the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 150.  Oral arguments in that case are set to be heard on September 4th.

Following the decision, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said he would ask for a stay to prevent the decision from immediately taking effect.  He also argued that the law’s fate is still truly in the hands of the state Supreme Court.  From his statement:

“Strong opinions exist on both sides about involuntary union dues, but the attorney general’s office has a duty to defend the laws the legislature passes from legal challenges plaintiffs file.  If a trial court finds a law unconstitutional, then the appropriate action is to stay its ruling pending the appeal.”

The IUOE Local 150 case was originally decided last fall – in favor of the union – by Lake County Superior Court Judge John Sedia. He stayed the verdict to allow it to go to the Supreme Court.

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