The disappearance of unions isn’t a good thing for America. I’d be happy to suggest a multitude of reforms they desperately need in order to stay viable and relevant, but little good will come of limiting the rights of workers to organize and collectively bargain. Right to work laws make sense on the surface, but their real effect is to eliminate unions.
Its very easy to forget what unions did for all workers – not just union members. Here is a brief list of benefits we all enjoy as a result of changes that labor unions championed and for which they are generally credited.
Why is it that employees don’t share in the rewards of their increased productivity? This is obviously a pro union source, but a comment at the end is worth sharing.
Without Unions, Wages Haven’t Come Close to Keeping up with Productivity or Inflation
Prior to the 1980s, productivity gains and workers’ wages moved in tandem. But from 1980 to 2008, nationwide worker productivity grew by 75 percent, while workers’ inflation-adjusted average wages increased by only 22.6 percent.
This means that over the course of the last 30 years or so, workers were compensated for only 30.2 percent of their productivity gains.
If American workers were rewarded for 100 percent of their increases in labor productivity between 1980 and 2008, as they were during the middle part of the 20th century, average wages would be $28.53 per hour–42.7 percent higher than the average real wage was in 2008.
It helps to look at the motivating factors behind recent pushes for Right to Work laws. Besides the eternal Red-Blue divide it’s corporate greed that under pins the movement.
“I think an important question to think about is: Why are big private companies spending a lot of money and energy fighting public sector unions?
“They want more free trade, lower minimum wage, the right not to pay sick leave, and all those things which are not per se about union contracts. But the biggest single opponent they have is the labor movement, even in its shrunken and weaker state.”
Lafer blames businesses and key business figures for lobbying to push such laws “not because of what unions are doing now for their own members but to get them out of the way on issues that will affect everybody else.”
These campaigns stigmatize unions and encourage people who are unemployed to resent unions rather than big business leaders, he argued.
For an overview of issues surrounding right to work laws follow this link: http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/11/us/right-to-work-q-and-a/index.html
One thing worth noting is that the states with Right to Work laws are not the ones typically or historically associated with the financial growth of our country. Absent from the list are Mid-Atlantic states, New England, the Rust Belt, California. Right to Work States are more likely the ones associated with agriculture and sprawling chicken processing plants (paragons of safe, healthy, well paid work environments).
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.