'Right to Work' Laws Explained: How They Impact You

Right to work laws prohibit the requiring of workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Now that Michigan has passed such a law, debates on the legality, morality, and logicality of right to work have begun. But with both sides shouting and fighting (literally) over these prejudiced issues, it is useful to turn to an issue that isn’t opinionated: how right to work will affect your pocketbook and your community.

According to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, the average worker in a right to work state has seen their wages increase 11.3% from 2000-2010. In non-right to work states, wages rose just 0.7%. Furthermore, compensation was $1,155 greater in right to work states. If you live in a right to work state, you’ve likely already seen the effects of such laws on your pocketbooks as you’ve outgained the average American worker in both yearly salary and average raises.

As far as the community is concerned, there is a strong correlation between right to work states and the unemployment rate. In states without right to work laws, employment decreased by 5.5% from 2000-2010; understandable, since during this time we went through a recession. But in right to work states employment increased by 0.3%. Although this is only a slight increase in the employment rate, this means that if you live in a right to work state, your family and friends have had greater opportunity to find employment whereas in non-right to work states, people likely saw some of their loved ones kicked out of the work force.

Maybe these economic statistics, although unknown to most, are the reason that so many people have moved to right to work states – in fact, these states have seen their population increase 15.3% from 2000 to 2010 compared to just 5.9% in non-right to work states. These population changes further increase economic growth as families move to right to work states and bring their money with them.

So what will happen to Michigan? Well, statistics show that average wages will increase, pay raises will increase, the unemployment rate will go down and their population will go up as people move into Michigan to take advantage of a better economy. Michigan will likely have greater government revenue due to this better economy and will therefore be able to provide better services to its citizens. Unions might lose membership, as they did when Idaho and Oklahoma passed right to work laws, but Michigan as a whole will be better off.

If you have not already been able to take advantage of living in a right to work state, a right to work law is sure to be proposed in the near future. Although economics should not be the sole deciding factor when one decides to support or oppose right to work, it certainly seems that if one wants to fatten their wallet and strengthen their community, they should vote for right to work.