Fox Gets “Right-To-Work” Wrong

Fox News contributors Steve Moore and Matt McCall falsely claimed that passage of “right-to-work” laws would benefit workers and the economy in Michigan. In fact, economic studies of similar laws have found that they lead to lower wages and do not increase employment.

On America's Newsroom, Moore and McCall celebrated the passage of so-called “right-to-work” laws recently passed by the majority GOP Michigan legislature. The legislation would prohibit unions from collecting dues from nonunion employees. Moore praised the bill's passage, calling it “huge for the economic future of Michigan.” McCall agreed, claiming states that had passed right-to-work legislation had higher compensation and lower unemployment:  

In fact, “right-to-work” laws have had a significant and negative effect on state economies, employment, and employee compensation. Multiple studies have found that wages and benefits are lower in “right-to-work” states. The Economic Policy Institute found that right-to-work laws “are associated with significantly lower wages and reduced chances of receiving employer-sponsored health insurance and pensions.” They estimated these laws decreased hourly wages by 3 percent for all workers:

Besides leading to lower pay and benefits “right-to-work” laws have had little impact on economic growth. While economists showed “little or no gain in employment and economic growth,” The New York Times reported that “six of the 10 states with highest unemployment have right-to-work laws in place.”

Moore also downplayed concerns that nonunion workers would benefit from union negotiations without paying dues. But research has shown that right-to-work laws do lead to “free-rider” situations. Studies have also shown Stephen Moore's assertion that non-union members don't benefit from unions is wrong. The National Labor Relations Board reported that workers who choose not to pay union dues still receive protections from union contracts. Dean Baker of In the Center  for Economic and Policy Research  echoed this point  and wrote:

The logic is straightforward. When a union is recognized as representing a bargaining unit it legally must represent every worker in that unit, whether or not a worker opts to join the union.

This means not only that non-members get the same wages and benefits that the union negotiates with the employer, but the union is also obligated to represent any non-member individually if that worker gets in a dispute with the employer over an issue covered in the contract. For example, if a non-union member is threatened with a discipline action or firing, the union must defend this worker's rights just the same as if they were in the union.

Right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to pay for this union representation. What right-to-work laws actually guarantee is the ability for a worker to benefit from union representation without having to pay for union representation.