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Right to work is all wrong


Editor's note: The proposed "right-to-work" bill was signed into law by Gov. Mitch Daniels on Feb. 8.

Folks, I would like to address the "right-to-work" legislation that looks as though it will become law. My interest in speaking on this issue is based on research, fact finding and because of my personal view. Thank you for your time.

I know what it is to have very little, even when you work very hard because of low wages. I know I was told a few years ago that no one was worth $5 a hour! I know the stress families have dealing with sickness and injury even with health insurance. In 1976, working on the farm, we self-paid our insurance, and the monthly cost was $70 a month. Today, self-pay for insurance can cost over $900 or more a month with high deductibles.

Working and having the support of a union provided the kind of wages that allow my family to rise above poverty level. Our health insurance and pension plans came out of my husband's hourly wage. My husband was the only person who paid into his insurance and pension plan, only him. You, the taxpayer, paid nothing. Whether he worked eight hours or 40 hours a week, that payment to his plans came out of his hourly wage. Did we miss it? No because we never had it in the first place, and it was needed for our health care and our future. But isn't this what workers should strive for? The future is scary and uncertain. Workers have to feel better about their future for their families knowing other workers have benefited from being UNION. Unions were initially created because of unfair wages and unsafe conditions. Look at history; let's not go back in time.

Please look at the recent research:

—A briefing paper from the Economic Policy Institute dated March 1, 2011, and titled "Does Right-to-Work Create Jobs? Answers from Oklahoma" states this: Recent evidence does show, in fact, that RTW laws result in lower wages — for both unionized and nonunion employees.

—In Ohio, the voters in November rejected the right-to-work law by 63 percent that was passed by that state's legislature.

—In Wisconsin, in the fight over the right-to-work law, signatures were gathered there to recall Gov. Scott Walker; 540,000 were necessary and approximately 800,000 or more have been turned in.

—A study conducted by Roland Zullo of the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy found that FATALITY rates are higher among construction workers in states with right-to-work laws.

Death rates are 34 percent to 40 percent higher for construction workers. The study does suggest that states with higher rates of unionization might be safer for workers because unions often push for safety training and accident prevention.

"Unions appear to have a positive role in reducing construction industry and occupation fatalities, but only in states without right-to-work laws," Zullo said.

Zullo also stated, "States attempting to reduce worker fatalities should consider encouraging trade union growth and repealing right-to-work laws."

—Gordon Lafer is an associate professor at the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon. His work concentrates on strategic planning, strategic research and labor and employment policy issues, and he has found flaws in the Indiana Chamber of Commerce's report. His report states:

"A report released by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce last month calls for cutting Indiana's' wages and benefits as a strategy for attracting more companies to relocate to the state. Unfortunately, not only is a wage cut the last thing most Indiana families need right now, but the report's methodology is so faulty that its numbers are highly misleading."

Professor Lafer also states in his report:

"It may be ironic to hear business owners insisting that the key to economic progress is cutting other people's wages. The bigger problem with the Chamber's study, however, is its faulty and ideologically distorted methodology.

If a college student presented this analysis for their thesis, it would be rejected for faulty methodology. In America, anyone is free to advocate a personal ideological agenda, but both legislators and the public at large deserve to know the difference between ideological passion and scientific fact. Unfortunately, the Chamber's study fails this most basic standard of democratic debate."

You can find Professor Lafer's report, "What's wrong with 'right-to-work': Chamber's numbers don't add up," at www.epi.org/publication/pm174/.

Also, the Higgins Labor Studies Program of the University of Notre Dame came out with another study titled "Right to Work Lowers Wages - And That's a Fact!"

Higgins Director Marty Wolfson and long-time Higgins member Barbara Fick, University of Notre Dame Law School professor, published an op-ed in the South Bend Tribune on Sunday, Dec. 4: " 'Right to work' law leads to lower wages for all."

Please look at all the facts.

Cara Beth Jones
Marengo, Ind.
February 22, 2012


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