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Right-to-Work Laws: The Opportunity to Improve the Country’s Economy Essay

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Updated: Jul 8th, 2021

Employment legislation plays a significant role in any country’s economy and its people’s well-being. In the USA, one of the hottest debates associated with work policies is the adoption of right-to-work (RTW) laws. While some states implemented them decades ago, others only joined the trend recently, and some are still resistant. The paper suggests an overview of RTW laws history as well as its current implications and prospects.

The History of Right-to-Work Laws

The history of RTW laws may be traced back to 1935 when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) (Kogan, 2016). According to that act, employees were allowed to organize with the goal of collective bargaining and defending their interests. In nearly a decade of the law’s existence, some amendments were made to it. Thus, in 1947, over the veto of President Harry Truman, the pro-union elements of the NLRA were altered. The new policy was called the Taft-Hartley Act (Devinantz, 2015). The Taft-Hartley Act allowed union shops only under the condition of “the absence of state law to the contrary” (“History,” 2013, para. 3).

Section 164 of the Act ratified the establishment of RTW laws by enabling states to restrain compulsory union membership or security agreements (Kogan, 2016). Thus, the history of RTW laws spans over seven decades.

Every state had its approach to implementing the new legislation. Florida and Arkansas were the pioneers of RTW laws adoption in 1944 (Devinantz, 2015). By 1976, the law was put into action in all of the former Confederacy states. The Taft-Hartley Act enabled the states to prohibit mandatory unionism (Devinantz, 2015). As of September 2016, the RTW law was adopted by twenty-six states, which was four states more than in 2011 (Wallace & Wallace, 2018).

The purpose of the law has not altered much since its initial adoption. The RTW law still takes care of employee rights protection. However, the major change between the original and present-time inception is that a worker cannot be forced to join the union even if they obtain union-won benefits (Wallace & Wallace, 2018). Such advantages include safe work conditions, stable wage levels, health insurance, protection from favoritism, and paid vacation.

The Two Sides of the Debate

The two sides of the RTW laws debate are focused on the advantages and limitations of the options suggested by it. On the one hand, some legislators and employees consider that the RTW law is highly beneficial and does not violate any rights of workers. These advocates argue that the statutes promote job creation and higher wages and enhance union responsibility. Also, the laws are regarded as morally right because they do not oblige laborers to support the ideas in which they do not believe (Eren & Ozbeklik, 2016).

On the other hand, the laws’ opponents claim that it causes a decrease in wages and deteriorates health-protecting and safety standards of employees. Apart from that, many union members are not satisfied with the fact that those laborers who do not pay their dues still receive all the perks (Eren & Ozbeklik, 2016). Therefore, each of the sides explains its position through research and analyses.

A report prepared by Vedder and Robe (n.d.) indicates that RTW laws contribute to economic and employment growth. Scholars note that unionization leads to the increased cost of labor (by at least 10%). As a result, the increased labor costs lead to the loss of attractiveness by the location (Vedder & Robe, n.d.).

Moreover, investors do not tend to place their resources and create new job opportunities in such places. As an example, Vedder and Robe (n.d.) suggest a hypothetical situation of a potential investor selecting between a state with and without the RTW law. Because unionization is expected to be higher in the state without the RTW law, labor costs will be higher there, too. As a result, the investor is much more likely to develop a business in the state which has the RTW law enacted (Vedder & Robe, n.d.). Taking into consideration the fact that other aspects are almost equal in states with and without RTW laws, non-RTW states are under threat of losing capital. Research indicates that capital migration from non-RTW to RTW states is the most viable prospect.

Employee migration is another aspect closely associated with the RTW law debate. The increased capital-labor ratio in RTW states leads to workers’ tendency to move to them (Vedder & Robe, n.d.). People’s movement from one location to another is generally associated with the fact that the new place is more convenient than the old one. Thus, the massive migration to RTW states, according to Vedder and Robe (n.d.), presupposes that workers are attracted by the economic vitality of such locations.

The question that has not been completely settled so far and which can be interpreted both as an advantage and as a disadvantage of RTW states is that of wages. There is no direct evidence of the improved wage effect in the states that have implemented RTW laws (Vedder & Robe, n.d.). Therefore, this aspect is used by non-RTW states to prove their position. Still, in the analysis of changes that occurred in Indiana after implementing the RTW law, Varga (2014) remarks that supporting unions is not the answer “to stagnant living standards” (p. 41). Therefore, research indicates that there are more advocates of RTW laws than opponents.

Opinion on the Issue

Taking into consideration the evidence offered by researchers, it seems that RTW laws are ethically sound for employees. However, the same cannot be stated about unions and employees, which are disadvantaged due to the necessity to provide workers with all benefits irrespective of their fee payment. Still, the benefits of these laws outweigh the costs since they lead to employment and economic growth and are likely to enhance laborers’ wages.

The Prospects of Right-to-Work Laws in the USA

Given the continuously growing number of states adopting RTW laws, it seems reasonable to expect that these regulations will become a norm in the long run. To support this opinion, statistics offered by Vedder and Robe (n.d.) may be employed. Scholars note that the proportion of employees belonging to unions declined by at least 50% in 2012. These data indicate that there is a tendency to leave unions, which will inevitably lead to workers’ support and initiation of RTW laws in other states.

Conclusion

The implementation of RTW laws by U.S. states is one of the most debatable issues in the country’s economic sphere. Defenders of RTW laws argue that they are aimed to increase employee’s work opportunities and enhance their level of life. Meanwhile, their opponents state that RTW legislation is not fair concerning those who are union members and pay their due. Evidence indicates that RTW states offer better employment options for their citizens. More U.S. states will likely accept the RTW law in the nearest future.

References

Devinatz, V. G. (2015). Right-to-work laws, the southernization of U.S. labor relations and the U.S. trade union movement’s decline. Labor Studies Journal, 40(4), 297-318.

Eren, O., & Ozbeklik, S. (2016). What do right-to-work laws do? Evidence from a synthetic control method analysis. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 35(1), 173-194.

Kogan, V. (2016). Do anti-union policies increase inequality? Evidence from state adoption of right-to-work laws. State Politics & Policy Quarterly, 17(2), 180-200.

Varga, J. (2014). Dispossession in nine-tenths of the law: Right-to-work and the making of the American precariat. Labor Studies Journal, 39(1), 25-45.

Vedder, R., & Robe, J. (n.d.). . Web.

Wallace, D., & Wallace, R. (2018). Right-to-work laws and the crumbling of American public health. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

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IvyPanda. "Right-to-Work Laws: The Opportunity to Improve the Country’s Economy." July 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/right-to-work-laws-the-opportunity-to-improve-the-countrys-economy/.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Right-to-Work Laws: The Opportunity to Improve the Country’s Economy." July 8, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/right-to-work-laws-the-opportunity-to-improve-the-countrys-economy/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Right-to-Work Laws: The Opportunity to Improve the Country’s Economy'. 8 July.

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