“Right-to-Work” States Still Have Lower Wages


The title of this thread comes from an article from the Economic Policy Insitute.

First I admit that this is a topic I don’t know a whole lot about beyond what I read in various articles, admittedly mostly leaning away from a political right point-of-view. I see the claims made in the article and while they sound reasonable I suspect that there are nuances I haven’t considered and unless I’m totally losing it, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that the folks here at RO might have something to say about the conclusions drawn.

Frankly, I’d like to hear them. Below are a few excerpts…

Thank you in advance,



This means that if an employer mistreats a worker who does not pay a union representation fee, the union must prosecute that worker’s grievance just as it would a dues-paying member’s, even if it costs tens of thousands of dollars. Non-dues-paying workers would also receive the higher wages and benefits their dues-paying coworkers enjoy. RTW laws have nothing to do with whether people can be forced to join a union or contribute to a political cause they do not support; that is already illegal. Nor do RTW laws have anything to do with the right to have a job or be provided employment.

At their core, RTW laws seek to hamstring unions’ ability to help employees bargain with their employers for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Given that unionization raises wages both for individual union members as well as for nonunion workers in unionized sectors, it is not surprising that research shows that both union and nonunion workers in RTW states have lower wages and fewer benefits, on average, than comparable workers in other states.

Wages in RTW states are 3.1 percent lower than those in non-RTW states, after controlling for a full complement of individual demographic and socioeconomic factors as well as state macroeconomic indicators. This translates into RTW being associated with $1,558 lower annual wages for a typical full-time, full-year worker.
The relationship between RTW status and wages remains economically and statistically significant under alternative specifications of our econometric model

“Right-to-Work” States Still Have Lower Wages


It might be true. I would argue that Cost of Living is also lower.

That is an anecdotal guess. I have not researched this, but from my own experience it holds up.


Is this the price of job security taken from their paycheck?


Did the article give a link for that “research”? If so, I’d like to see it and scrutinize it. “Scrutinize” meaning things like where was the research done, who was/were the author/authors, what data points were considered, what states were surveyed, etc.?

I’m not necessarily disputing the results (I’m not agreeing with them either), but before I go either way, I’d like to see the details of this research.


Here are all the references given tin the article:

Area Development Magazine. 2014. “28th Annual Survey of Corporate Executives: Availability of Skilled Labor New Top Priority.” http://www.areadevelopment.com/Corporate-Consultants-Survey-Results/Q1-2014/28th-Corporate-Executive-RE-survey-results-6574981.shtml?Page=2.

Atkinson, Robert, and Adams Nager. 2014. The 2014 State New Economy Index: Benchmarking Economic Transformation in the States. Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. http://www2.itif.org/2014-state-new-economy-index.pdf

Belman, Dale, Richard Block, and Karen Roberts. 2009. “Economic Impact of State Differences in Labor Standards in the United States, 1998-2000.” Employment Policy Research Network blog, February.

Blanchflower, David G., and Andrew J. Oswald. 1996. The Wage Curve. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Bureau of Economic Analysis (U.S. Department of Commerce) Regional Data: GDP and Personal Income. Various years. Regional Data: GDP and Personal Income Tables [data tables]. http://www.bea.gov/itable/iTable.cfm?ReqID=70&step=1#reqid=70&step=1&isuri=1

Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor) Consumer Price Indexes program. Various years. All Urban Consumers: Consumer Price Index (CPI) [database]. http://www.bls.gov/cpi/data.htm

Bureau of Labor Statistics (U.S. Department of Labor) Local Area Unemployment Statistics program. Various years. Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) [database]. http://www.bls.gov/lau/data.htm

Current Population Survey Outgoing Rotation Group microdata. Various years. Survey con­ducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics [machine-readable microdata file]. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Census Bureau. http://thedataweb.rm.census.gov/ftp/cps_ftp.html#cpsbasic

Gould, Elise, and Heidi Shierholz. 2011. The Compensation Penalty of “Right-to-Work” Laws. Economic Policy Institute, Briefing Paper No. 299. http://www.epi.org/publication/bp299/

Heintz, James, Jeannette Wicks-Lim, and Robert Pollin. 2005. The Work Environment Index: Technical Background Paper. Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) Working Paper No. 107. http://www.peri.umass.edu/fileadmin/pdf/resources/WEItechappendix.pdf

Hicks, Michael J. 2012. Right-to-Work Legislation and the Manufacturing Sector. Center for Business and Economic Research (Ball State University) report. https://cms.bsu.edu/-/media/WWW/DepartmentalContent/MillerCollegeofBusiness/BBR/Publications/RightToWork/RightToWork.pdf

Lafer, Gordon, and Sylvia Allegretto. 2011. Does Right-to-Work Create Jobs? Answers from Oklahoma. Economic Policy Institute Briefing Paper No. 300. http://www.epi.org/publication/bp300/

Lafer, Gordon, Marty Wolfson, and Nancy Guyott. 2012. Indiana Experience Offers Little Hope for Michigan ‘Right-to-Work’ Law. Economic Policy Institute Policy Memorandum #199. http://www.epi.org/publication/pm199-indiana-experience-offers-little-hope-michigan-right-to-work/

Lemieux, Thomas. 2011. “Wages and Occupations.” Albert Rees’ Lecture presented April 30. http://www.sole-jole.org/2011LemieuxReesLecture.pdf

Missouri Economic Research and Information Center (MERIC). 2010. “Cost of Living Data Series: 2010 Annual Average.” Economic Indicators, Missouri Economic Research and Information Center website. http://www.missourieconomy.org/indicators/cost_of_living/index.stm

Moore, W.J. 1998. “The Determinants and Effects of Right-To-Work Laws: A Review of the Recent Literature.” Journal of Labor Research, vol. 19, no. 3, 449–469.

Moore, W.J., and R.J. Newman. 1985. “The Effects of Right-to-Work Laws: A Review of the Literature.” Industrial and Labor Relations Review, vol. 38, no. 4, 571–585.

Ozkan, Eren, and Serkan Ozbeklik. 2015, forthcoming. “What Do Right-to-Work Laws Do? A Case Study Analysis Using Synthetic Control Method.” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Sherk, James. 2015. “How Unions and Right-to-Work Laws Affect the Economy.” Testimony before the Wisconsin Senate Committee on Labor and Government Reform, February 24. http://www.heritage.org/research/testimony/2015/how-unions-and-right-to-work-laws-affect-the-economy

Sloan, Scott. 2011. “Kentucky Got Toyota in 1986, but Why Have None Come Since?” Herald-Leader, May 2. http://www.kentucky.com/2011/05/01/1725979/kentucky-got-toyota-in-1986-but.html

Stevans, Lonnie K. 2009. “The Effect of Endogenous Right-to-Work Laws on Business and Economic Conditions in the United States: A Multivariate Approach.” Review of Law and Economics, 2009, vol. 5, no. 1, 595–614.

Winters, John V. 2009. “Wages and Prices: Are Workers Fully Compensated for Cost of Living Differences?” Regional Science and Urban Economics, 2009, vol. 39, 632–643.


I write this from the anti-union point of view. I was blacklisted from a few of them in my days, and absolutely detest what unions have become.
1] Unions try to control their participants in what they do and how they should think. They are decidedly socialist and we can see the troubles they caused in various elections.
2] In a non-right-to-work state where the union controls a person cannot find a job and keep a job in industry or construction unless he/she is a union member. Granted the salaries are higher, but when you take the union dues and other deductions out they take home far less.
Right -to -work states allow the average worker to be employed without paying exorbitant dues and fees. But frankly the take-home pay is pretty much the same of Union and non-union.


Fair enough. I also believe that unions, as an organization, can harm the people they are created to represent, but I think it can also be said that what’s good for individual businesses (driving down wages as a way to reduce costs) can be harmful to business overall (driving down the public’s capacity to consume).

Correct me if I’m wrong, but it’s the unions of the late 1970’s that helped fuel the inflationary spiral at the time. Unions could demand higher wages in light of decreasing buying power (again due to inflation) which in turn helped drive costs higher and continued to erode purchasing power which unions responded to by demanding ever increasing pay.

There is also another story I read somewhere a long time ago, and frankly I don’t even know if it’s true (though it might be), that railroad engineers unions during the time of the transition from steam to diesel demanded that their per-mile pay stay the same even though they could travel a good deal further in the same amount of time driving up costs and making the transition to diesel less profitable.

Having said all of that, it’s clear that RTW isn’t the right solution to this problem. The pendulum is swinging away from unions over the last 30 years but I think that we should consider that it might swing back in the other direction at some point…

I think workers deserve representation, but I would agree whole heartedly that union organizations (the few people in charge) have been known to abuse the power granted to them to serve their own interests.


I doubt the pendulum will “swing back” at any point in the near future. During my working years I was also an assistant superintendent for a large construction company that HAD to employ union workers in all disciplines of work, Carpenter, mason, electrician etc. Few if any actually liked to be under the heavy hand of those northeast unions and all the money they extracted from their paychecks–which I wrote, by the way. Under union rules you could only lay so many brick a day, a carpenter limitations applied as to how much work could be accomplished. If I had a power saw on the job, ( and remember this was in the early sixties) I had to pay an operating engineer and an oiler to sit on their collective asses while the carpenter used the saw. But what the workers disliked most was their dues and other expenses deducted and paid back to the union for the union bosses comfort.
What the unions did well was make sure the members were skilled in their craft. THAT was the only positive I found, as my Architecture career grew and the projects demanded skill in carpentry and masonry and darned if I could find one skilled mason who actually knew what he was doing. And trying to find a finish carpenter. cabinet installer??? Broke my heart. I even spent time trying to teach masons how to properly break bundles and mix brick from three bundles before laying brick.


I’m not saying it will or won’t, but given the current generation, I wouldn’t be so sure that we aren’t in for some fairly radical changes as today’s teens become tomorrows 30 somethings…

As far as unions, I remember my uncle and grandfather were both Teamsters uncle born in the early 40’s and grandfather born in the late 20’s. They drove a truck for 40+ years and made a very good living doing it. I can’t really say how they felt about the unions they were in but I know they made a good living doing it (though they both suffered terrible back trouble as a result).

My brother (in his early 50’s followed in their steps but has not found 30 years of trucking (and now carpentry) has provided the same lifestyle that my uncle and grandfather had.

Is that a union thing? Like I said, I admit I don’t know enough to have an informed opinion, but if anyone asked me I’d say the answer probably lies somewhere in between what we had and what we have.


Did you know that it’s THE LAW in St. Louis, MO–controlled almost lock, stock and barrel, by union bosses–that a homeowner MAY NOT change a washer in his own sink, but must hire a union plumber? It’s a law that’s largely ignored, to be certain, but it IS on the books because the unions wield so much political clout there.


No, I didn’t know that. Seems that any good idea (worker representation) can be taken to extremes.

Can you link that to something I’d like to save that. I tried to find something that said that. All I can find is that “licenced contractors” are the only ones that can work on plumbing and electrical unless of course, that’s code for union workers as all licenced contractors in MO have to belong to a union (again, I don’t know, I’m asking)…


The only reason I know it is because I have family who live there. I’ll ask them if “licensed contractors” are union members and get back to you, but it seems logical given the antipathy my family members have towards everything union. They claim that changing a washer by a “licensed contractor” costs $150 because, as they were told, “that’s union scale for this job.”



Didn’t think there would be so many cites.

So . . . one at a time.

For the first one, the AreaDevelopment magazine cite, I’m reading through that lengthy article.

My first impression after scanning the entire article briefly? How is this relevant?

Am going back over it in detail, and may end up changing my tune after closer scrutiny.

In any case, I may have bitten off more than I can chew. Or, the stated theory has been made relying on the obfuscation of so many sources.

Stay tuned . . .