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"Right to Work"

Those three words form a phrase that prompts acceptance from most people.


After all, the majority of us need to work in order to support ourselves and our families, so it only makes sense that we have a right to do so. But this otherwise simple, innocuous phrase has nothing to do with worker “rights.” Rather, “Right to Work” is a misnomer…a misunderstanding-by-design piece of legislation that is intended to cripple labor-advocating unions but more specifically, harm workers by shrinking workplace wages, reducing and even eliminating benefits, diminishing job site safety and stripping the ability of workers to collectively improve their workplaces.


The economic recession of late-2007 prompted some states to consider Right to Work laws within the context of improving employment and income generation. Right to Work proponents claim that unions handcuff American businesses by stifling competition and increasing costs and the unionists claim that right to work is simply another phrase for the right to freeload.  When you dispel the myths and look at the facts, it’s clear that Right to Work is nothing more than the right to deny workers proper representation and to compensate them well below the level of wages and benefits that previous generations fought for and achieved. Are you willing to make that sacrifice to increase your employer’s profit margins?


Don't be Fooled!


Whether in a union or not, Right to Work is a Big Business tool supported as a favor by far-right politicians that is focused on broadening the distance between corporation “haves” and working class “have nots.” This affects nonunion and union workers alike, and the communities in which we live.

Robert Reich Why Right to Work is Wrong for Workers 



In late 2013 a policy report was released, titled The Economic Effects of Adopting a Right-to-Work law: Implications for Illinois. This intensive study was undertaken by four labor and public policy academicians with a combination of master’s and doctoral degrees, representing the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with collaboration from the University of Michigan.


The findings outlined in that report are as follows:


  • Right to Work lowers worker earnings.

  • Right to Work reduces union membership.

  • Right to Work increases gender and racial wage inequality.

  • Right to Work reduces employee benefits and increases workplace fatalities.

  • Adopting a Right to Work law would have a negative impact on Illinois’ economy and budget.


In a 2015 Chicago Tribune article, one of the professors who participated in the aforementioned study said, “Implementing a statewide right-to-work law in Illinois would be punitive for working men and women. Citing the collaborative universities’ study, he said that “workers would suffer an income loss of 5.7 percent to 7.3 percent, fewer workers would have health and retirement benefits and poverty would likely rise by 1 percent.” He went on to say that “If just half of Illinois’ counties transitioned into ‘union-free’ Right to Work zones, total employee compensation would drop an estimated $1.2 billion.”


In April 2017, a study conducted by researchers at the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign investigated the effect Right to Work laws passed in Midwest states have on workers.  Researchers compared Right to Work states for which there is available data—Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin—to three Midwest states that remained collective-bargaining  states—Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio—from January 2010 through December 2016.


What the Study Found:


As of 2016, there were significant differences between the two groups of states:


  • Workers in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin earned 8.0 percent less per hour on average than their counterparts in Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio. The median worker earned 5.9 percent less.

  • The union membership rate was 11.5 percent in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin compared to 13.7 percent in Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio.

  • The unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, marginally lower than the 5.1 percent rate in Illinois, Minnesota, and Ohio.


In Addition:


On average, Right to Work legislation has statistically reduced the hourly wages of:


  • Construction and extraction workers by 5.9 percent.

  • Workers in service occupations, including police officers and firefighters, by 3.1 percent.

  • Workers in office and administrative support roles by 2.7 percent.

  • Employees in retail and business sales by 2.4 percent.

  • Professional, educational, and health workers by 1.9 percent.


In Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the introduction of Right to Work laws has statistically reduced the unionization rate by 2.1 percentage points on average and lowered real hourly wages by a total of 2.6 percent on average.


Report Summation:


“Lawmakers in other states that are debating the merits of passing ‘right-to-work’ laws should consider these research findings. Between 2010 and 2016, the enactment of ‘right-to-work’ legislation reduced unionization and resulted in lower hourly earnings on average in states across the Midwest. Ultimately, ‘right-to-work’ laws have had negative consequences for many workers in Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.”


Right to Work lowers worker earnings.


Right to Work increases gender and racial wage inequality.


Right to Work reduces employee benefits and increases workplace fatalities.


Adopting a Right to Work law would have a negative impact on the state's economy and budget.


The Economic Effects of Adopting a Right-to-Work Law:

Implications for Illinois

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The Impact of "Right-to-Work" Laws on Labor Market Outcomes in Three Midwest States: Evidence from Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin (2010-2016)

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Taking the Pulse of Illinois' Middle Class

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whats at stake

What's at Stake?


At stake with such a law are the financial ramifications for all working men and women as well as a community that benefits from locally derived revenue, a solid tax base and professional construction to thrive. The impetus for economic growth ultimately depends on demand for what local businesses are selling. Depressing wages through Right to Work means less disposable income that could make its way back into the economy. In addition, Right to Work also incentivizes out-of-state labor to work locally and then disperse that income elsewhere including outside the U.S.  Reducing wages doesn’t generate job creation, but it does invite unskilled workers, dangerous work conditions and inferior craftsmanship.


Future generations are losing their opportunities for good paying, secure middle-class jobs. These are your children and grandchildren…tomorrow’s leaders of the economy, innovators and builders of tomorrow, caretakers of social services and stewards of the planet.  This assault is happening right under our noses and it affects you, your families and the communities in which you live.


We must make it our responsibility to act now by supporting our working-class labor and stopping the erosion of wages and benefits that is destroying America’s middle class and further distancing the haves from the have nots.

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