Once again, my home state and college town has made national headlines for another union battle. A little over four years after Governor Scott Walker began his battle with unions over collective bargaining rights in the state of Wisconsin, he signed a law prohibiting the requirement of workers to pay union dues. Effective immediately, Wisconsin has become the 25th Right-to-Work state in the United States and the first since 2012. Passing this Right-to-Work law received criticism from President Barack Obama, 400 business in Wisconsin, and 3,000 angry union protesters at the Capitol.
Supporters and non-supporters alike have highly emotionally charged opinions on Right-to-Work laws, and sometimes it hard to uncover the truth of the issue, so it’s important to understand what exactly Right-to-Work laws mean. In a Right-to-Work state, employees cannot be required to join or pay union dues. Furthermore, if an employee decides to resign from membership in a union, they are able to do so at any time. Union members may not be able to participate in union elections, but elections or meetings, but the union cannot discipline someone for leaving. Further, the union is required to keep representing that worker, and former members are still covered by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated between the employer and union.
Support for Right-to-Work laws actually exceeds support of unions in general. Over half of Americans (53%) approve of labor unions. However, when specific union activities and problems are broken down, unions draw more criticism – from their own members. 57% of current union members believe their union dues are too high. 63% of union members believe their union leaders are overpaid and 66% believe it’s unreasonable for union leaders to spend their members’ dues without their approval. A whopping 80% of union members believe that workers should have the right to decide to join a union or not, and should never be forced to join or pay dues. Gallup found that 71% of all Americans support right-to-work laws ensuring employees can decide whether or not to decline union membership.
President Barack Obama called Walker’s signing of the Right-to-Work law an “anti-worker law,” but how accurate is this statement? Right-to-Work laws do not abolish unions. By making union membership voluntary, workers can decide for themselves whether or not they will benefit them. As 57% of union members believe their dues are too high, and 63% believe that union leaders are overpaid, the ability for union members to leave and not pay dues may cause unions to become more centered on the workers instead of on union bosses and their agendas.
There are also clear economic benefits that come with passing Right-to-Work laws. Since 1990, Right-to-Work states have significantly higher income growth than non-Right-to-Work states. Right-to-Work states also tend to have more jobs, than their non-Right-to-Work counterparts. Right-to-Work states also saw double the growth in private sector employees, had a lower poverty rate when adjusted for cost of living, and an increased growth in personal income. Aside from just increased private sector jobs, these states also had a higher rate of patents granted annually and a greater increase in the number of people covered by employment based health insurance.
Making Wisconsin a Right-to-Work state was the right move. Not only will Right-to-Work laws help union members combat the over-payment of union leaders and help fight corruption in their ranks, but Wisconsin will now hopefully enjoy the same economic benefits that have been visited on other Right-to-Work states. Further, Scott Walker stood strong again as a leader who fights hard for his constituents while still embracing strong conservative principles. Even though the law’s passage came with strong opposition, the people of Wisconsin are the clear winners of this legislative showdown.