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The Truth About Right to Work

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English 101, 9.30 am

Instructor: Nancy Eichner

Essay 2: Edited Draft

November 18, 2015

Thesis: Washington should not be a right-to-work state because right-to-work laws would only give employees lower wages, fewer benefits, worse working conditions, and Washington is better off without such laws.

Purpose: To state my opinion about right-to-work laws, give reasons why they are not beneficial for the state to support my opinion, as well as convince workers and people who either support right-to-work laws or are not informed regarding right-to-work laws to not support the passing of right-to-work laws in Washington.

Audience: General audience, workers in the state of Washington.

The Truth About Right to Work

Right-to-work laws are often referred to as “right-to-freeload” by unions and their supporters due to its unfairness between employees who are and are not members of a union. Right-to-work laws determine how labor unions within companies operate. According to the National Labor Relations Board, right-to-work laws essentially mean “[i]t is up to each employee at a workplace to decide whether or not to join the union and pay dues, even though all workers are protected by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union.” In states with or without right-to-work laws, unions have the duty to represent all workers equally regardless of whether or not they belong to a union. This concept is known as the Duty of Fair Representation (DFR). The union bargains with employers on the behalf of employees to negotiate the improvement of compensation, working hours, and conditions. Employees who are not members of a union in a right-to-work state would still be able to experience the benefits without paying any union dues. Right-to-work laws—despite its misleading name—is a distortion of the reality behind such laws. This seemingly straightforward term—right-to-work—does not guarantee employment for anyone and results in lower wages for employees, therefore Washington should not become a right-to-work state.

The United States is evenly split between right-to-work and non-right-to-work states. There are twenty-five states that have passed the right-to-work laws, with Wisconsin as the state to implement right-to-work laws most recently. The increasing number of right-to-work states, however, does not change the actual impacts of right-to-work laws. The fact that right-to-work laws actually give positive economic impacts are questionable. The amount of data and statistics of studies and surveys from several different sources actually prove that right-to-work states are not very advantageous. This can be seen in the difference in workers’ compensation levels, such as wages and benefits they gain in the workplace. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers belonging to a union have better working conditions, more benefits, and higher pay than workers who are not represented by a union. A 2011 study by the union-supporting Economic Policy Institute found that wages and benefits are lower in right-to-work states than in non-right-to-work states. The wage difference between non-right-to-work and right-to-work states is evident. In 2009, the median weekly earnings of full-time workers in non-right-to-work states was 13.4% ($771) higher than workers in right-to-work states ($680) and the median household income in non-right to work states was 13.4% ($52,513) higher than in right-to-work states ($46,328) according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics also states that workers in non-right-to-work states earn $5,971 (12.2%) more annually than workers in right-to-work states. A research done by the Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding each states’ median hourly wage in 2014 state that in right-to-work states—such as Oklahoma and Alabama—the median hourly wage was $15,17 in Oklahoma and $14,83 in Alabama, whereas the median hourly wage in Washington was $19,76. Washington’s economy is already healthier than most right-to-work states; Washington shouldn’t take the risk of implementing right-to-work laws.

Besides wages, non-right-to-work states also have an advantage in employee benefits. A survey by the National Compensation Survey proves this. Employee premiums for medical care are $68 higher each month and access to vision care in non-right-to-work states are almost 50% more than in right-to-work states. In a non-right-to-work state, unions bargain with employers in behalf of workers to gain health benefits, a good salary and pension plans. Even if workers don’t belong to a union, they could also gain these benefits in exchange for fees in the amount they are represented by a union. Under right-to-work laws, workers in un-unionized workplaces must be represented by a labor union without the obligation to pay any dues. This becomes a free-rider problem; why send money to labor unions if workers could get all the benefits free of charge? Unions would be less vocal and shrink with the lack of financial support they get from representing workers and as a result would experience difficulty in bargaining for workers. Most unions would be drained of funds to wield influence and union members would opt out. Unions’ activity of representing workers cost money, the activities involved are negotiating a contract, maintaining and enforcing the contract, as well as representing workers in grievances. In a non-right-to-work state—if the employer and union agree—workers should at least pay their fair share for the cost of union representation involving wages, benefits and working conditions attained through the union. The unfairness is obvious in right-to-work laws. It is only fair that non union members be obligated to pay their fair share, also known as “agency fees”—they pay dues to the union for their representation without being forced to join said union.



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