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The editorial board of the Salem Statesmen Journal, one of the most influential newspapers in Oregon, is not messing around.

Their piece on the coming fight over making Oregon a so-called “right to work” state goes right to the point: this law is bad for Oregon, and the only reason we’re talking about it is because of deep-pocket out-of-state special interests.

Don’t know what a “right to work” law is? The editorial kicks it off with a succinct definition:

Under right-to-work laws, employees in unionized workplaces no longer can be required to pay unions for the cost of being represented. That’s the sum and substance of right to work, in one sentence.

These laws, passed in 24 states, have nothing to do with protecting those who have a job from losing it or granting anyone who needs a job the right to find it. Yet the phrase persists, because political factions that back such legislation aren’t courageous or honest enough to call them what they are.

Right-to-work is a misnomer. If proponents were straight with us, they’d call these transparently vindictive efforts a “Right to Weaken Unions Act” or a “Right to Punish Those Who Oppose Us Measure.” The laws drain money from unions under the guise of creating a more business-friendly environment for states.

As we’ve written, the national “right to work” effort sputtered in 2013. In Oregon, Portland attorney Jill Gilbson Odell is sponsoring a “right to work” initiative intended for the 2014 ballot. “There’s national money to be had,” she told the Associated Press, mentioning “large donors” who would back her. But 2013 saw little movement for Odell’s effort, and popular Gov. John Kitzhaber has already stated his opposition.

Yet Oregon remains a top target for national “right to work” backers. “[It’s] as if a big red X has been affixed to a map of our state by outside influences who have decided in secret that we are to be the next target in their misinformation campaign,” the editorial board writes.

Odell’s claims may indeed pan out, and the anti-worker initiative could get the big dollars it needs to get to the ballot. In that case, the Statesmen Journal has a simple suggestion:

The misinformation campaign is coming. Right-to-work proponents are expecting you to roll over and play dumb. We suggest you sit up and become informed.
Here are some real facts to get you started:
  • States with “right to work” laws have lower average wages than free bargaining states. Workers earn an average of $1,500 less annually in “right to work” states.   
  • Fewer workers have employer-based health insurance in “right to work” states. There are also higher rates of workplace injuries and fatalities in these states.
  • Research in favor of Oregon’s “right to work” initiative is deeply flawed (and funded by the same donors who are pushing the policy in the first place.)
  • Businesses don’t use “right to work” as a primary factor when deciding where to locate.

Learn more about “right to work” laws at

Take action for workers' rights by joining Working America today.

Photo by NSNewsflash on Flickr

Originally posted to Working America on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 07:56 AM PST.

Also republished by Barriers and Bridges.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you. Perfect clarity on a deliberately (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NE2, sfbob, Mayfly, marina

    obfuscating term.

    RTW is a con, plain and simple.

    One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don't come home at night. -Margaret Mead, anthropologist (1901-1978)

    by Yasuragi on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:09:20 AM PST

  •  Do RTW states have higher employment rates? If (0+ / 0-)

    wages are $1500 less and there are fewer jobs, why would any state consider this measure?

    “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” Richard Nixon, 1977.

    by Kvetchnrelease on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 08:16:43 AM PST

    •  If you think about it (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that $1500 estimate is quite tricky to derive. One has to decide what other factors to account for and how they should be accounted for.

      Is that looking just at jobs with union workers?

      Are you looking across states at the same jobs, or just lumping all jobs together.

      Is the wage difference in part because the tax burdens are different? or cost of living?

      As a statistician, i could come up with all kinds of different estimates as to the difference. I'd be cautious in treating somebodies estimate as a fact.

    •  It benefits the employer ONLY (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sfbob, Mayfly, a2nite

      and that is why states want to push these laws onto the books.

      They sell the lie to the voting public that it will bring jobs into the states. Yes, it will bring jobs, with poverty wages and the taxpayers will still be footing the bill to keep these people from starving.

      It ONLY benefits the employer in the long run.  It's just hard for people to understand that RTW does NOT = good paying jobs that will lift me out of poverty, when they are desperate for ANY kind of job.

      The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy. -Charles de Montesquieu

      by dawgflyer13 on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:03:33 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I almost didn't join a union when I was a teen (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Working America, marina

    because I was saving money for college.  I lived in a "right-to-work" state.  I explained that to the union rep who asked me to join.  She replied that the salary large enough to include savings was because of the union.

    She was right.  So I joined.

    The right of the women of this State to be secure in their persons against unreasonable searches shall not be violated by the State legislature.

    by Mayfly on Wed Jan 08, 2014 at 09:49:21 AM PST

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