Right-To-Work laws are legislation passed that allows employees represented by a union to receive the benefits of union membership without paying dues or agency fee. Right-To-Work laws weaken labor unions by offering employees the option to “free ride” on dues paying members.
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”
—Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1968
What are the Practical Effects of Right to Work Laws?
- Employees in States without Right-to-Work laws are 140% more likely to be covered by a union contract (1).
- Average hourly wages are 15.8% higher for employees in states without right-to-work laws (2).
- Median hourly wages are 16.6% higher for employees in states without right-to-work laws (3).
- People under the age of 65 in states with right to work laws are more likely to be uninsured (16.3 percent, compared with 12.4 percent in free-bargaining states) (4).
- They’re less likely to have job-based health insurance than people in other states (53.9 percent, compared with 57.1 percent).and pay a larger share of their health insurance premiums (29.9 percent compared with 26.1 percent) (5).
- Poverty rates are higher in states with right to work laws (14.8 percent overall and 20.2 percent for children), compared with poverty rates of 13.1 percent overall and 18.3 percent for children in states without these laws (6).
(1) Economic Policy Institute, Right to Work States Still Have Lower Wages. April, 2015.
(2) Economic Policy Institute, Right to Work States Still Have Lower Wages. April, 2015.
(3) Economic Policy Institute, Right to Work States Still Have Lower Wages. April, 2015.
(4) Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, Health Insurance Coverage for Non-Elderly, June 2012.
(5) Henry J. Kaiser Foundation, Percent of Private Sector Establishments that Offer Health Insurance, June 2012.
(6) U.S. Census Bureau, POV46: Poverty Status by State, 2013.