Photo courtesy Equality Michigan through the LGBT Free Media Collective English CC BY-SA 3.0
“Right to Work” laws have nothing do with ensuring your actual right to work. It’s one of those terrible doublespeak names that enshrines its strawman argument conveniently within the name of the legislation. Because if you oppose the literal right to work, then you’d have to be crazy, right? That’s the strawman they try to fool you with.
The truth is that laws like these could just as easily—and perhaps more accurately—be called “Right to Freeload.”
So-called “Right to Work” laws don’t give you any genuine right to employment. Employers can still require drug testing, for example. They can require “no compete” clauses to limit freelancing. They can schedule you to work from 3am to noon, even if you’d prefer noon to 9pm… and they can even choose the healthcare plan available to you. They don’t have to offer cost-of-living raises, provide daycare options, permit casual dress, or provide any of the conditions you prefer. If you don’t like it, then your option is to find another job. You can’t opt out of the requirements you don’t like, because you don’t have the right to do that.
What “Right to Work” is really about is allowing you to refuse to pay union dues, but still require the union to work for you. You get the wages and other benefits that unions fought for, and the union is even required to represent you in a grievance hearing for free.
In other words, these laws give folks the right to reap the rewards other people are working for and paying for.
There’s a name for that: freeloading.
They call it “Right to Work” so it seems like it offers benefits for workers. That’s the tragedy of doublespeak. It doesn’t sound as good to say “I support the Right to Freeload!” so they give it a deceptive name in hopes that you’ll take it at face value without bothering to understand. But clearly, workers who opt out of union dues are essentially taking advantage of the hard work of others, while offering nothing in return.
These laws target unions, in order to weaken the power regular people have to demand fair treatment. Just like you can’t simply opt out of working on Fridays without consequences, and your employer can’t simply opt out of paying you without consequences, you should not be able to opt out of union dues without consequences. Where employees have voted to organize, paying your dues must be a condition of employment.
To be clear, you are already not legally required to pay money for union political representation. “Right to Work” laws add the option of allowing you to demand the union represent you without paying the fees associated with that representation. Talk about selfish!
The chief argument FOR “Right to Work” is that it will create jobs. But despite myths to the contrary, we know studies repeatedly show that there is little to no impact on job growth. In other words, these laws just don’t create the jobs promised.
So one might wonder why anyone would push this legislation, then? Whom does it benefit? Easy answer: states with Right to Work laws have lower wages and fewer benefits, like pensions. That’s not just unions workers: that includes even nonunion workers. What “Right to Work” does is create another way for large employers to benefit while keeping wages low for workers.
Think helping employers is a good idea? It is, in some cases, sure. But keep in mind that the whole trickle-down, help-the-employers economic strategy is predicated on the idea that employers who save money will pass it along to employees by means of higher wages, or that it will help them create more jobs. That is just not what happens with “Right to Work.” Instead, employers pocket more money, while employees suffer with lower wages and fewer benefits.
“Right to Work” does not “trickle down” to the rest of us; “Right to Work” is wrong.