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Policy Matters Ohio

So-Called Right to Work and the next generation

May 19, 2015

So-Called Right to Work and the next generation

May 19, 2015


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.

Teachers in SCRTW states are far more likely to have overcrowded classrooms and lower pay than teachers in states that are friendlier to unions. In states where SCRTW was recently implemented, teachers have not only seen a decrease in pay and benefits, but demotions from full time to part time.

In the union publication neaToday, Maria Turner said her full-time teaching job in Wisconsin before SCRTW became a part-time position with no benefits after the state weakened unions with this law.

College students exploring the job market in a SCRTW state are at a disadvantage. The average worker makes $1,500 less a year in SCRTW states than in states that are more supportive of unions. Workers in SCRTW states are also less likely to get health insurance through their jobs.

Organizers and activists are mobilized to educate voters about SCRTW laws. (That's me pictured with the Rev. Tony Minor, speaking at a recent event in Cleveland). But the movement needs to reach out to the new generation of workers and those entering the workforce.

Although there aren't always young people at the center of this conversation, I am hopeful that labor leaders/organizers, community organizers and policymakers will really start coming together to have a proactive conversation around SCRTW. We need to bring young Ohioans into discussions about this regressive policy agenda. Young people are leading fights all across the country, we need to be leading this one as well.

-- Amelia Hayes



2015Collective BargainingWork & Wages

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