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Opponents: Right to Work Could Mean Lower Wages in Missouri

There are currently 226,000 union members in Missouri, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Twenty20)
There are currently 226,000 union members in Missouri, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Twenty20)
July 12, 2018

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — On the surface, "right to work" policy sounds like something beneficial to Missouri workers, but opponents say it's a misnomer. Contrary to what the name may indicate, the policy does not aim to provide a general guarantee of employment to people seeking work.

On August 7, the state's voters will decide on Proposition A, which would establish the state as a "right to work" state, but worker advocates want voters to understand the impact. Lindsey Baker, director of research with the Missouri Budget Project, explained.

"What that does is, it effectively limits the collective power of workers to negotiate for higher wages and more benefits by limiting union resources,” Baker said; “while at the same time, it still requires those unions to extend the benefits of those negotiated contracts to those who don't contribute financially."

The Economic Policy Institute estimates that wages in right-to-work states are 3 percent lower than those in states such as Missouri that don't have such laws - even when accounting for differences in cost of living and variances in industry. Supporters of right to work say the policy offers employees more access to jobs.

The institute and the Missouri Budget Project also assert that employees in right-to-work states have access to fewer benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans, since unions don't have the resources to advocate for those benefits. Baker said lower wages and fewer benefits have a statewide impact.

"Right-to-work legislation would further erode the middle class in Missouri by lowering wages and reducing access to affordable health insurance,” she said. “But there are also some pretty serious implications for Missouri's state budget. Lower wages in Missouri would reduce our already diminished tax base."

Baker added a reduced tax base would provide less funding for public services such as education and infrastructure. Nationwide, there are 28 right-to-work states.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - MO