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Study: Right-to-Work Law Could Disproportionately Impact Black Workers

Currently, 28 states, predominantly in the Midwest, South and Southwest, have right-to-work laws in place. (Twenty20/Andreeas)
Currently, 28 states, predominantly in the Midwest, South and Southwest, have right-to-work laws in place. (Twenty20/Andreeas)
May 21, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — As Republican lawmakers advance plans to protect the so-called "right-to-work" legislation they passed last year, a study shows the policy could hurt black workers most.

The law, which deals with banning mandatory union fees, did not take effect because Democrats and union workers gathered enough signatures to force a vote on whether to keep the law. But the debate continues.

Valerie Wilson, director of the program on race, ethnicity and the economy at the Economic Policy Institute, said their analysis found black Missourians would be disproportionately impacted by the law.

"The reason this is disproportionately impacting black workers is because black workers are a larger share of the unionized workforce than they are the total workforce,” Wilson said. “The black workers are more likely to be union members."

According to the study, 13.9 percent of all black workers are unionized in Missouri, compared with 10.3 percent of all white workers, and 9.3 percent of all Hispanic workers. Voters will decide whether to make Missouri a right-to-work state in the August primary election, rather than in November.

Wilson said it's not just black workers who will feel the negative impact of a switch to a right-to-work policy if Missourians vote to approve the law.

"There have been other studies done nationally,” she said. “And what they find is that workers in right-to-work states on average earn about 3 percent less than workers in non-right-to-work states."

Proponents say workers should have a choice about joining a union and paying dues, while opponents argue banning mandatory fees could cripple workers' ability to bargain for better wages.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MO