Just over a month after announcing his decimating budget plans to cut 13 percent from the University of Wisconsin System’s state funding, Gov. Scott Walker unabashedly announced he would sign right-to-work legislation today.
The governor dodged questions about the controversial bill during the election cycle, while campaigning on college affordability and jobs, but seems to have pivoted to full, guns-blazing support.
Before looking at the specifics, it’s important to understand the broad intention of right-to-work. The policy terms tossed around are often vague and not well explained, so let’s talk about what right-to-work is and what it means for Wisconsin. Under a right-to-work law, all employees, public or private, are no longer required to pay their fair share to the unions representing them, but are still guaranteed its protection. Let me be clear in what “paying their fair share” means. No worker can be required to join their union; they are only required to pay their share of a union’s collective bargaining costs.
Under right-to-work, workers can pay nothing in dues and be given the same benefits as full-paying union members. This completely exploits the function of unions and is unfair to paying members. Unions have fought hard and continue to fight for fair wages and benefits for workers. Unions also prevent corrupt employees from illegally firing employees.
Allowing workers to opt-out of paying dues is problematic. If a non-paying member is fired illegally, the union is still obligated to pour money into investigation and, if necessary, legal action. It’s like passing a law that no longer requires people pay Social Security taxes their entire working life, but still provides them with Social Security stipends after they retire. That wouldn’t be fair to those paying Social Security taxes, just as right-to-work isn’t fair to paying union members.
Proponents of the law argue that right-to-work creates a more business-friendly environment and results in higher wages and lower unemployment. Facts do not back up this rhetoric. Time and time again, studies have shown that states with right-to-work do nothing but undermine unions.
For example, the Economic Policy Institute, Gordon Lafer of University of Oregon and Sylvia Allegretto of University of California-Berkeley conducted a report in 2011 and found that there was no correlation between right-to-work and decreased unemployment.
The claim that wages are higher under right-to-work is also a myth. A Notre Dame University study noted that 18 of 22 right-to-work states have median household incomes below the national median. A study by the UW Extension program found manufacturing jobs earn $8,100 less in right-to-work states. This is hugely ironic, as the UW-Extension program that conducts valuable research like this will be absorbing a 10.3 percent cut under Walker’s proposed budget.
The budget and right-to-work legislation serve as a one-two punch to Wisconsinites, specifically students. The budget cuts all but guarantee a massive tuition hike, meaning students will be left with loan debt even more burdensome than it already is. Now with the passage of right-to-work legislation, students will be entering a job market with noticeably lower wages and less job security – it’s a vicious cycle. With 750,000 Wisconsinites and counting burdened with federal student loan debt, our state cannot afford the costs of right-to-work.
Economic studies and real life explorations have debunked every conservative talking point. It’s not worth jeopardizing the stability of my generation’s careers. The effects have been proven to do nothing to spur economic development, increase wages or lower unemployment. In many cases, it has done exactly the opposite.
August McGinnity-Wake ([email protected]) is a freshman majoring in political science and economics.
Click below to read the counterpoint from the College Republicans:
Point counterpoint: Right-to-work protects freedom, boosts economic growth — College RepublicansBoth the Wisconsin State Senate and Assembly have passed right-to-work legislation with the expectation Gov. Scott Walker will sign the Read…