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Study Shows Wages Are Depressed In Right-to-Work States

South Dakota is one of 28 states in the country to enact right-to-work laws. (hcpss.org)
South Dakota is one of 28 states in the country to enact right-to-work laws. (hcpss.org)
July 31, 2018

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Right-to-work laws do not bring jobs - and in fact reduce wages - according to new research. The laws say that even workers covered by union contracts don't have to pay anything toward the cost of getting and keeping the contract.

Supporters argue that states with the laws see job growth because employers are drawn by their business climate.

Former U.S. Labor Department chief economist Heidi Shierholz now is the director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute. She says they've found the laws don't increase employment - but do depress pay at the existing jobs.

"What we find is that right-to-work will not create jobs, but it will hurt the wages of middle-class workers," she explains.

Twenty-eight states have right-to-work laws on the books.

Shierholz says it's complicated to compare right-to-work states with those that don't have the laws - because industries, education levels, costs of living and other factors are different. But she says once you take all those things into account, wages in right-to-work states are still at least 3 percent lower. That means an average full-time worker takes home $1,500 a year less.

Shierholz says in spite of the rhetoric, that's what the laws are made to do.

"The proponents of Right to Work really do try to make it sound like it's gonna be good for workers," she says. "But it's not about freedom. It is simply to reduce the wages of workers so that corporate profits can increase."

Some union members say they shouldn't be called right-to-work laws. They say a better name might be right to work for less.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD