So-called “right to work” laws negatively impact a state’s workforce and economic growth, according to a recent report released by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal.
Iowa is one of twenty seven states with such laws.
The report, released last month, shows how, in terms of worker financial security, overall economic strength and community health, the 23 states with free collective bargaining are better for workers than the 27 states without.
The report found that workers in middle- and lower-class, “essential” fields are especially at a disadvantage.
“States with collective bargaining freedom laws have higher wages, greater health coverage, better retirement security, more investment in education and worker training, fewer on-the-job fatalities, faster-growing economies, higher life expectancies, lower infant mortality rates, and broader civic and political engagement,” the authors of the report wrote.
“Right-to-work laws are associated with lower wages, less investment in apprenticeship programs, lower productivity, slower economic growth, higher infant mortality, lower civic engagement and higher reliance on federal assistance.”
With data from 2018, the report found that right-to-work laws are associated with lower wages, less investment in apprenticeship programs, lower productivity, slower economic growth, higher infant mortality, lower civic engagement and higher reliance on federal assistance.
Between 2011 and 2018, wages in right-to-work states grew 7.1 percent, compared to the 8.3 percent growth in collective bargaining states. Growth in GDP in collective bargaining states was 33.8 percent, compared to the 31.1 percent in right-to-work states.
In right-to-work states, 87 percent of workers have access to health care, but in collective bargaining states, that percentage jumps to 92 percent.
More workers in right-to-work states also receive SNAP assistance (14 percent vs 12.8 percent) and live below the federal poverty line (16.4 percent vs 14.3 percent).
Infant mortality is also generally higher in right-to-work states. In 2017, states with free collective bargaining saw 5.1 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Right-to-work states saw 6.5 infant deaths per 1,000.
Iowa is far from the worst-performing state, but the trends are undeniable.
For example, between 2011 and 2018, Iowa’s GDP grew 28.8 percent, and Iowa’s infant mortality rate per 1,000 live births was 5.3 in 2017.
Right-to-work laws basically state that workers cannot be made to join or pay dues to a labor union.
Throughout American history, labor unions have been crucial for all workers to receive just pay and benefits. Unions represent workers and advocate for things like health insurance, paid time off, wages and workplace safety. The benefits affect all workers, too, not just union members.
The fewer members in a union, the less power the union has to make those bargains.
“States with collective-bargaining freedom laws have stronger economies, less reliance on public assistance, and better health outcomes. Businesses have greater access to a high-skilled and productive labor supply and workers have higher earnings and a stronger voice in civic life,” the report concluded. “To develop and protect good jobs, policymakers should ensure that all workers have the right to join a union and collectively bargain.”