wisconsin capitol
Column
December 11, 2014

Right to Work is Wrong for Wisconsin

Should you be able to stay home from work when you’re sick? How about taking time off during work to attend a child’s school conference or go on a family vacation? Would you like to have a say in the safety conditions of your workplace? Do you think you deserve to earn a good wage for doing your job?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then right to work is wrong for you.

Unfortunately as Wisconsin’s middle class struggles with a lagging economy and stagnant wages a well-funded front group and a cabal of Republican politicians are poised to try to ram through a divisive and distracting measure to make it even harder for workers to get ahead.

Right to work is being sold as a simple idea. But behind the propaganda campaign is a complicated, politically motivated ploy that would tilt the system even farther against Wisconsin’s beleaguered middle class.

The law puts more power in the hands of out of touch CEOs who care more about big bonuses and profits than the workers who create them by ending unions as we know them, eviscerating the last line of defense protecting workers from the unbridled greed of Wall Street.

Voices working to make sure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share of taxes and stop rewarding companies that ship jobs overseas with tax breaks will be silenced. Fewer people will be able to fight to protect workplace safety, crackdown on polluters who violate health and safety laws and protect whistleblowers. And efforts to ensure workers can balance their life and family outside of the workplace and the fight to stop full time jobs from becoming part time work with less pay and no benefits are denigrated.

Consider what has happened to all workers, not just those in unions, in states in which right to work laws are in place:

In right to work states, wages are lower. According to the U.S. Census Bureau median household incomes are lower, $535 a month on average, in states that have right to work laws compared to those that do not. Another study found that more jobs are in low wage occupations in right to work states.

And it’s not just wages that right to work hurts. Six of the ten states with the highest unemployment rates are right to work states. The rate of workplace deaths is 36 percent higher in right to work states. Even education funding and health insurance coverage is lower in right to work states.

Supporters of a right to work law will try to brush aside the economic consequences of right to work and talk about freedom. But real freedom in the workplace means employees are able to balance life and work, without feeling like you’re falling behind at work or fearing for your job.

Wisconsinites work hard. We deserve to earn good wages, work in a safe environment and balance our professional and private lives.

A right to work law would take us in the opposite direction, and that’s why it’s wrong for families, wrong for workers and wrong for Wisconsin.

# # #

Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now and One Wisconsin Institute Executive Director since 2007, has served as a senior communications director and research strategist for numerous statewide campaigns and elected officials.

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