PRESS RELEASE May 13, 2015
‘Right to work’ laws reduce wages for middle-class workers
Innovation Illinois presents research on negative impacts of ‘right-to-work’ proposals, calls General Assembly to reject Governor Rauner’s attacks on hard-working men and women
SPRINGFIELD, IL – Calling “right to work” laws a stealth attack on Illinois’ middle class, leaders of Innovation Illinois Thursday presented new research that demonstrates the destructive impacts of “right to work” laws and called on the Illinois General Assembly to reject Governor Rauner’s anti-union proposals.
“The data shows that “right to work” policies are detrimental to wages for both union and nonunion workers alike, said Michelle Saddler, Innovation Illinois’ Chief Executive Officer. “We want to make sure that everyone in Illinois understands that “right to work” laws have nothing to do with protecting our right to work – our right to seek success, to build our careers, and to achieve our share of the American Dream. These so-called “right to work” laws are nothing more than a weapon aimed at the middle class.”
In a Thursday morning news conference in the Blue Room of the Illinois State Capitol, Ben Winick, Innovation Illinois’ Vice President for Policy, presented research showing that “right to work” laws in other states reduce wages for union and non-union workers alike.
“We looked at data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau, and we found that the average non-union wages in ‘fair share’ states, like Illinois, are 10.2% higher than non-union wages in ‘right to work’ states,” Winick said. “In fact, average wages in non-union households in Illinois last year outpaced average non-union wages in almost every ‘right to work’ state in the Union.”
Winick explained that Illinois is a “fair share” state. That means that, if a majority of employees in a workplace vote to be represented by a labor union that will negotiate on their behalf, workers who opt out of union membership must still pay a fee to the union. That fee covers their “fair share” of the cost of bargaining, implementing and enforcing the contract.
In “right-to-work” states, non-union workers are not required to pay those fees to the unions that represent them in collective bargaining. As a result, their unions may not have the resources they need to forge a strong bargain and make sure the employer abides by it.
“We need to make it clear that the Governor’s “right to work” proposals mean just the opposite,” Winick said. “They’re actually a mechanism that gives greedy corporations the right to pay below-market wages and the right to undermine the labor unions that are committed to making our nation’s middle-class workers prosperous and secure.”
Innovation Illinois’ research is supported by a recent study from the Economic Policy Institute, a non-partisan Washington-based think tank that focuses on labor research. The Institute recently conducted a study on the impacts of state “right to work” laws that controlled for a wide range of varying labor market conditions. Even after controlling for those variables, the Institue found that average overall (union and non-union) wages in “right to work” states are about 3% lower than in “fair share” states. That means the typical full-time worker in a “right to work” state makes $1,558 less each year than the average worker in a state like Illinois.
“Despite what the Governor may say, there’s no evidence that these so-called “right to work” laws create more jobs or reduce unemployment,” Winick added.
Saddler urged the General Assembly to ignore partisan rhetoric and focus on the documented negative impacts that “right to work” laws have had on middle-class families in other states.
“At Innovation Illinois, we are committed building an agenda that will drive economic growth by playing to Illinois’ strengths: expanding and building on our highly skilled work force, promoting innovation and strengthening our world-class infrastructure,” Saddler said. “We want to make sure that no one is fooled by the misleading name of Governor Rauner’s ‘right to work’ proposals. As Americans, we already have the right to work hard every day. What we need in Illinois is the right to thrive.”
Innovation Illinois is a newly launched, nonpartisan research-based advocacy organization dedicated to shaping, promoting, and implementing progressive public policies that reflect real world-tested best practices. The mission of Innovation Illinois is to advocate for ideas that create growth and champion the interests of working men and women and their families.
 Economic Policy Institute, “‘Right-to-Work’ States Still Have Lower Wages”