Monday, April 11, 2011

Coming Soon to a State Near You!

What "Right to Work" really means

Earlier this year Wisconsin, normally known for its cheese and beer, was a mainstay in the national news as ground zero for its clash between labor unions and the Republican party.

The Badger State, which has a new Republican governor and a budget deficit of $3.6 billion, had a legislative standoff. Teachers and other unionized workers slept in the Capitol's hallways for weeks, and Democratic senators fled the state to delay debate on a Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal, which includes limiting the power of public-employee unions to negotiate contracts and work rules.

The bill, which passed by using legislative high jinks, awaits a ruling by the state Supreme Court before it can be implemented.

Several other states are getting in on the action with varying success including Ohio, Iowa, New Jersey and Florida. Here in Pennsylvania, Gov. Corbett has already come out in favor of Right to Work legislation.

In anticipation of this challenge to workers rights, here is a primer on what Right to Work means.

First, Right to Work, while sounding beneficial to job seekers, does nothing to secure jobs or provide protection against undue dismissal. It allows people to gain the benefit of union negotiated arrangements without being a union member -- it essentially undermines the union.  

If you compare several quality of life indicators in states with a Right to Work (like Mississippi, Florida, and Texas) with Pennsylvania, you can see our state comes out ahead consistently on measures like wages, education and health coverage.

Wages: Based off of 2009 figures, the average annual pay for Pennsylvania's estimated 900,000+ unionized workers (private and public sector) is more than $5000 higher than the average in Right to Work states.

Education: In 2009, Pennsylvania invested more in education per student than 21 of 22 Right to Work states. PA's average: just over $12,032, Right to Work average: about $9,000. This investment pays dividends: more Pennsylvania students are proficient in both math and reading then in Right to Work states.

Health care: Pennsylvania employers are more likely to offer health insurance to their workers than Right to Work states, especially small businesses with fewer than 50 employers.
·        PA all employers: 63%; Right to Work all employers: 50.3%
·        PA small employers: 49.4%; Right to Work small employers: 34.6%

These are the factors that individuals and young families look at when considering a move to a new state. Additionally, good wages, education and health care keep the Pennsylvania economy recovery moving in the right direction.

The people who are for job growth and against higher taxes should want Pennsylvania's wages to be higher.

It would seem to me given our current state's economic concerns, now would be an adverse time to rescind workers rights and move in the direction of lower wages, less health care and less student achievement.