Right-to-Work Laws Reduce Wages and Don't Create Jobs

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As the Republican-controlled Legislature in Indiana attempts to rush so-called right-to-work legislation through without even holding public hearings, two new reports point out that such legislation reduces the wages of union and nonunion workers alike, while doing nothing to create jobs.

While Republican leaders in the state Senate and House, with Gov. Mitch Daniels' enthusiastic support, are trying to fast-track a bill through the Legislature, Democrats are calling for a series of statewide hearings where citizens' voices can be heard. Democrats in the House have stayed away from the Legislature, so there has not been the quorum needed to conduct business. Daniels, meanwhile, was forced to lift an order that would have barred from the Statehouse thousands of Indiana citizens who wanted to express their opposition to the legislation.

The two new reports on the false promise of right-to-work proposals come from Gordon Lafer at the Economic Policy Institute and Marty Wolfson at the University of Notre Dame. In "Working hard to make Indiana look bad: The tortured, uphill case for 'right to work' ", Lafer writes: "In Indiana and elsewhere, large sums of money have been devoted to backing RTW bills, with lobbyists claiming that RTW significantly improves both the number of jobs in a state and the wages people earn because companies that had avoided the state will flock there. The evidence shows that these claims are completely without scientific foundation."

Lafer, who is also a professor at the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center, says rigorous, properly designed studies have found that right-to-work laws reduce wages by $1,500 a year for union and nonunion workers, and lower the likelihood that union and nonunion employees get healthcare coverage or pensions through their jobs. Lafer also has found that such laws have no impact on job growth in states that adopt them.

In " 'Right to Work' Lowers Wages—And That's a Fact!", Wolfson also refutes the claims of proponents—such as the Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council and others—and shows that right-to-work states have lower wages than those without such laws.

Updates on what's happening in Indiana are available on the Stand Up for Hoosiers Facebook page or on Twitter. [Dan Gursky, AFL-CIO Now]

January 5, 2012