Right to Work

One of the issues that is decided by the Illinois State Senate and Illinois House along with the Governor are so called “Right to Work” laws and Illinois becoming a “Right to Work” state.  Currently Illinois is not a “Right to Work” state; it is a free bargaining state. 26 states are “Right to Work” mostly in the South but our neighboring states of Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan have all recently gone “Right to Work”.    What exactly is “Right to Work”? 

On the surface, you would think that “Right to Work” is a good idea,  A general guarantee of employment to people seeking work.  That is not what it means at all.  “Right to Work” is a deceptive phrase designed to mislead the public. “Right to Work” laws are a partisan political ploy to weaken Unions, make it harder for Unions to organize workers, and undermine the basic rights of workers.   They do that by prohibiting union security clauses which are in all of our agreements with our signatory contractors, all of the contractors that you work for.  These union security clauses require Union membership as a condition of employment.  Without these security clauses, non-union workers can work right alongside you without being members of the Union.  Anyone here think that is a good idea?

 Here are some statistics comparing free bargaining states to ““Right to Work”” states:

  •  Workers in “Right to Work” states earn an average of $5,971 less than workers in free bargaining states.
  • Median household income in states with these laws is $6,568 less than in other states.
  • Workers in “Right to Work” states are less likely to have health benefits.  16.3 % of workers under the age of 64 in “Right to Work” states have no health coverage compared to 12.4% of workers under the age of 64 in free bargaining states. 
  • In states with “Right to Work” laws, 25.9% of jobs are in low-wage occupations, compared with 18.0% in free bargaining states. 
  • Workers in “Right to Work” states are less likely to have job-based health insurance.  53.9% to 57.1% in free bargaining states. 
  • The poverty rate in “Right to Work” states is 14.8 % compared to 13.1% in free bargaining states. 

There are many other statistics where “Right to Work” states lag behind free bargaining states but most telling statistic of all is this; The risk of workplace death is 45.7% higher in “Right to Work” states compared to free bargaining states.We all know the emphasis Unions and Union workers place on safety,  How many times have you heard the phrase, we want you to go back home to your families the way you left them in the morning, safe and sound. Everywhere you turn on many jobsites there are signs reminding you to work safely.  John Flynn and his staff at the District Council Training Center provide you with quality safety training that may not be as readily available to non-union workers.    That is not just a coincidence; “Right to Work” states are more likely to have workers compensation laws that are less punitive and more favorable to employers.  Most employers have strong safety records and preach safety regularly because they genuinely care about their employees and want them to return safely to their families at the end of the workday.  But let’s not lose sight of the possibility that there may be some unscrupulous employers that only are concerned about safety because an injured worker is going to cost them financially.  That injured worker is going to be compensated fairly because of the strong workers compensation laws.  One could draw the parallel that the higher rate of fatalities in “Right to Work” states is because of the less stringent workers compensation laws.  Unscrupulous employers are less worried about the financial repercussions of an unsafe workplace. 

Despite the statistics and evidence I referenced earlier, currently in Illinois we have a Governor who has stated on many occasions that he is in favor of Illinois becoming a “Right to Work” state.   Because of the statistics and evidence I referenced earlier, we have a majority in the Illinois Senate and Illinois House that are against Illinois becoming “Right to Work”.  Were we to lose the majorities in the Illinois House and Senate, the Governor would have nothing standing in his way to change Illinois to a “Right to Work” state and enact less stringent workers compensation laws that would make our jobsites less safe.