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'Right-to-Work' laws don't increase jobs
Online-only guest column

'Right-to-Work' laws don't increase jobs

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Rights in the workplace are about being able to balance life and work. They’re about having time to attend a parent-teacher conference or having time to take a loved one to the doctor. These rights give us the time for what matters in life without fearing you are at risk of losing your job or feeling like you’re falling behind at work.

Greg Gianforte supports the false narrative that Montana workers will be better off if Montana becomes a “Right-to-Work” state.

What Greg Gianforte really wants to do is depress wages so that wealthy CEOs like himself can keep more profits in their bank accounts rather than provide a fair share to the workers and communities who created that wealth.

As reported in the Billings Gazette and MT News, Gianforte is fundraising on “Right-to-Work” legislation. This is a scheme by corporations and CEOs to undermine the collective bargaining process itself by undermining union capacity to bargain. The result is corporations are given an enormous advantage when unions attempt to bargain for fair wages, job safety, health insurance and pensions.

“Right-to-Work” as a policy solution to increase wages or create jobs accomplishes absolutely nothing. This is because "Right-to-Work" laws don't increase jobs, they decrease wages. In states like Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, and Iowa we find practically no increase in job growth created because of "Right-to-Work". What we find are jobs with less pay, fewer benefits, and worksites that are significantly more dangerous. The result is CEO pay and stockholder compensation go up at the cost of wages, job safety, health care and retirement security. Corporations simply put the savings from wages, benefits, and job safety in their bank accounts and do not reinvest them.

Since the 1970s as union density has dropped, compensation for CEOs has increased dramatically. In “Right-to-Work” states, money that would be in the community is now going into the bank accounts of the super wealthy. CEO to worker pay ratios are wildly unfair. Last year the 350 largest corporations had a CEO to worker pay ratio that was 320-1 - in the 1960’s this ratio was closer to 20-1. This ratio is expected to climb this year despite the pandemic and devastating job losses.

In “Right-to-Work” states, workers earn $7,443 less on average per year than workers in free-bargaining states and median household income is 13.7% less. Workers are also less safe in RTW states. They are 41% more likely to die on the job and workers under 65 are less likely to have health insurance and a secure retirement.

Does more money really need to be funneled to the super wealthy at the expense of workplace safety and wages? This undermines every local household and business in every Montana community. Strong collective bargaining laws support strong local economies, not more private planes for millionaires.

"Right to Work” is being promoted by a well-coordinated network of out-of- state billionaires, super PACs, and corporate special interest groups that are down-sizing industries, shipping jobs overseas, and hiding profits offshore to avoid paying the same taxes families and small businesses must pay.

Gianforte’s policies will return Montana to a corporate low-wage outpost with increasingly unsafe working conditions. In the 1960’s Montana was able to transform itself from a state where capital flowed out to a state where a larger percentage of the wealth created within the state stayed here. This was largely done by empowering unions and democracy in the workplace.

There is simply no way around the fact that this is about returning Montana to what it was before the 1960’s - an outpost for out of state corporations to extract as much wealth as they can rather than leaving it with workers and their families.

Al Ekblad is executive secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO.

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