Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has spent much of his tenure feuding with unions, seems to argue that laws that weaken unions will end up helping them. From Politifact:
The Republican governor said laid-off Mitsubishi Motors workers, all union members, told him they were moving to Texas.
“There’s more union jobs growing in Texas, which is a right-to-work state, than in Illinois, and factory workers make more money in Texas than they do in Illinois. That’s where the opportunity is,” Rauner said.
Politifact investigates the claim and finds that there have been more union jobs created in recent history here than in Illinois, but that that is most likely because Texas is much bigger and therefore has more of everything than Illinois. Texas has one of the lowest unionization rates in the country: 5%.
I wish that Politifact had investigated Rauner’s reasoning. Why would an anti-union policy lead to more union jobs? Because this is a great example of the contradictions inherent in right-to-work talking points. On one hand, advocates say it has nothing to do with weakening unions and is just there to allow workers to choose whether they want to pay dues or not. In the very next sentence, RTW supporters will say that it will lead to more businesses locating in the state. Now why would that be? There are three reasons, all of which overlap:
- When fewer workers are paying dues, the union (the local bargaining unit and its parent organization) has fewer resources to aggressively represent its members at the bargaining table and has a much harder time presenting a credible threat of a strike.
- Even a small percentage of workers opting out of paying dues (freeloaders) weakens the statewide union infrastructure, making it harder for unions to organize at new workplaces.
- National unions will be less likely to invest resources in organizing workplaces in right-to-work states since they know that they are less likely to recover the costs of organizing even if they do succeed in winning a union election.
Therefore, for businesses, right-to-work laws have two main appeals. The chief objective, particularly in the long-term, is that they reduce the chance that your workforce will unionize. Second, in the event that your workforce is unionized, the union you are bargaining with will have less money and therefore be weaker.
So could RTW lead to more union jobs? Perhaps in theory. In theory, a national company that has unionized operations in many different states might choose to move more resources to Texas because the union they’re dealing with there is less powerful and presents less of a strike risk.
But then again, Rauner also hinted that RTW not only leads to more union jobs but higher wages. That definitely doesn’t make sense. The whole point of RTW is to weaken the mechanism that workers use to demand higher wages.
Anyway, I’m happy to see that union jobs are growing alongside all the other kinds of jobs. And of course, I would urge every member of the media, particularly those employed by rapacious conglomerates whose profit model is based entirely on gutting pay and benefits for journalists, to consider unionizing.
I will conclude with this quote from Martin Luther King Jr:
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.
Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”