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‘Right-to-work' is a great slogan, but it's deceptive

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Nixon vetoes controversial 'right-to-work' legislation

"House Bill 116 is a war on your pay check. It cannot become law, " said Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon, addressing a crowd of union union workers on Thursday, June 4, 2015, at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 36 training facility in St. Louis. Nixon signed the actual veto of controversial "right-to-work" legislation earlier in the day in Jefferson City." Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

In the commentary “Right-to-work makes wages higher, workers freer” (Oct. 27), author F. Vincent Vernuccio cherry-picked his way through some statistics trying to put a positive face on how zippy things are — wages, growth, jobs — for everyone in the right-to-work states.

People often quote Mark Twain on the subject: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.” Just as interesting to me is the first half of Twain’s quote: “Figures often beguile me, particularly when I arrange them myself.”

Companies want a place where they can easily do business. People want good salaries from companies so they can support and raise their families. Unions want to be able to help their members.

What we’ve learned in our own research is that consultants helping companies select new business sites are far more concerned about having a well-trained work force, good infrastructure and education. Missouri already offers what businesses need. Whether a state has a right-to-work law is not even in their top 10 decision-making criteria.

Relative to workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics data clearly show that things aren’t better for people in right-to-work states, where they have lower rates of health insurance coverage, higher poverty levels, higher infant mortality rates, lower investment in education and more workplace deaths. Who would want that for Missouri?

Workers do less well in right-to-work states, and the pay gap between men and women is larger. There are fewer quality jobs. In worker-friendly states, people earn an average of $117.48 more per week. That’s $6,109 a year more. Vernuccio proudly brags that West Virginia, a new right-to-work state, saw wages go up $6.36 a week since right-to-work passed. Woo hoo.

Looking at total household incomes, in worker-friendly states a family’s median household income is $157.19 more per week. That’s $8,174 more a year. Of the 20 states with the lowest median household incomes, 65 percent are right-to-work states.

The simple truth is, under federal law no one is forced to join a union to get, or keep, a job. If you don’t join, you pay a service fee to cover what the union does: contract bargaining, fighting for your grievance, ensuring fair treatment on the job. And by the way, requiring a service fee for nonmembers is the result of a secret ballot vote of the entire workforce. Depending on the majority’s decision, it’s either in or out of the contract. It’s the democratic process at work.

The true intent of right-to-work is to cripple and ultimately destroy unions. No business operates for long without being able to recover its cost of doing business: facilities, administrative, supplies. In right-to-work states, however, while federal law requires unions to provide full services to all workers covered by the contract, right-to-work allows workers to opt out of paying for the services they receive.

You don’t join Costco or a swim club without paying a fee for services. Let’s see the Chambers of Commerce provide services to companies without dues being paid. Under right-to-work, you can do that to a union. It’s more than anti-American. It’s just plain wrong!

Vernuccio claims the right-to-work issue is about freedom. Indeed it is, for those who want to pay low wages amid despicable working conditions, and to ignore workers and families except as they provide the profits that support executives’ bigger salaries, stock options and huge bonuses.

The truth: Workers have significantly less freedom under right-to-work laws. They don’t get the representation a union bargained for. They have no voice in the workplace. They can lose their job willy-nilly, with no protection. They face a greater risk of injury. The workers’ bottom line is they get lousy wages and benefits so their employer can enjoy greater freedoms. Woo hoo.

The real bottom line is that right-to-work is indeed wrong for Missouri and Illinois.

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