COLUMBUS, Ohio - Right-to-work laws don't bring more jobs to states that pass them - but do end up reducing wages, according to new research.
Right-to-work laws say even workers covered by union contracts do not have to pay anything to the union to cover the cost of getting and keeping those contracts. Supporters of these laws argue that right-to-work states see job growth because a non-union business climate attracts employers.
Former U.S. Labor Department chief economist Heidi Shierholz, now director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute, said the EPI's latest research doesn't back that claim.
"What we find is that right-to-work will not create jobs, but it will hurt wages of middle-class workers," Shierholz said.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public employees can't be forced to pay union fees. Ohio is among 20 states in the country without state-level right-to-work laws.
Shierholz said it's complicated to compare right-to-work states with those that don't have such laws in place, because industries, education levels, costs of living and other factors are different. But taking all those factors into account, she said wages in right-to-work states are still at least 3 percent lower. That means an average full-time worker takes home $1,500 a year less in a right-to-work state.
Shierholz said in spite of the rhetoric, that's what the laws are made to do.
"The proponents of right-to-work really do try to make it sound like it's going to be good for workers, but it's not about freedom," she said. "It is simply to reduce the wages of workers, so that corporate profits can increase."
Some union members say they shouldn't even be called right-to-work laws. They say a better name might be "right to work - for less."
Reporting by Ohio News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest, and funded in part by the George Gund Foundation.