In the discussion surrounding right-to-work legislation, there is a tendency for both opponents and proponents to use misleading myths to advance their agenda and achieve their goals.
Right-to-work is a straightforward and transparent concept; it simply prevents an individual from being forced to pay union dues if they are not a union-member. Myths, however, are used to confuse the issue, making a simple and easily understood concept seem controversial and dangerous.
Not only are these myths detrimental to this important conversation, but they also pollute people’s attitudes and beliefs—preventing policy makers and elected officials from making rational decisions based on facts and evidence.
Here are some of the most common myths used in the right-to-work debate, and explanations as to why they are completely untrue and misleading.
Myth # 1: Supporting right-to-work is an anti-union position.
Reality: Right-to-work is a pro-worker position.
Too often, the debate over right-to-work devolves into an argument over the pros and cons of unions, with each side squabbling over the merits and usefulness of organized labor.
Not only is this debate outside the scope of right-to-work, it overlooks the true meaning and purpose of allowing individuals to choose whether to financially support unions. Supporting right-to-work is not necessarily a matter of being against unions, nor is it a matter of pitting job-creating businesses against hardworking Mainers and their families.
Right-to-work is primarily about fairness, opportunity, and freedom. It allows workers to have a choice on whether to spend their hard-earned dollars on union dues, or to instead put their money towards other uses.
This not only benefits workers by putting more money in their pockets, but it protects their right to choose how they spend their money, and which organizations they support.
By supporting right-to-work, you are supporting the rights of workers, and working to give them a hand up in today’s competitive economy.
Myth # 2: Right-to-work leads to lower wages.
Reality: Income actually increases when a state passes right-to-work.
If this myth were true, we would expect workers in states with right-to-work laws to earn significantly less than their counterparts in states that are devoid of right-to-work.
However, the opposite is true. States that have adopted right-to-work have actually experienced higher personal income growth than non-right-to-work states, and have seen their wages increase at a faster rate. Even adjusted for the cost of living, employees in right-to-work states are seeing their paychecks grow faster than their counterparts in states that lack right-to-work.
Myth #3: Right-to-work allows non-union members to “freeload” and receive benefits without paying their dues.
Reality: Non-union members are victimized and prohibited from negotiating with their employer
Another myth that is consistently brought up in the discussion on right-to-work is that this type of law would allow free loading, as unions represent and provide benefits to all workers – not just union members.
This myth exists because current labor laws are based upon the principle of majority of representation, which explains that if the majority of employees of a company vote to have union representation, the union is obligated to represent every employee, not just its members.
But a critical aspect of this predicament is the fact that non-union members are not choosing to have unions negotiate their salaries and contracts – they are being forced to have unions negotiate with their employer and determine their economic future.
Therefore, non-union members are not free loading, but are being victimized even further. They are restricted from bargaining from with their employer regarding their salary and benefits, meaning they are sacrificing even more of their economic freedom and right to happiness to unions.
The logical, and only solution to this issue, is to eliminate the requirement for majority of representation. By allowing individuals the freedom to negotiate the terms of their employment, we can continue to move towards our goal of economic prosperity and freedom for all.
Myth # 4: Right-to-work is a radical idea that would mean the death of unions.
Reality: Right-to-work is only a small step towards government neutrality.
Both opponents and advocates of right-to-work tend to claim this policy is a big step towards eliminating unions and preventing them from having any impact on our economy.
But that is not true at all.
Right-to-work is a minor move that shifts government towards a more neutral position that favors neither labor unions nor businesses. It is a small step towards ensuring government does not influence workers in their decision on whether or not to join a union, not a catastrophic leap that will spell doom for our economy.
On the spectrum of government involvement in organized labor, Maine is currently much closer to favoring and protecting unions than they are to having a neutral approach that provides freedom to those who do not join a union.
Enacting right-to-work would be a common-sense move towards a fair and balanced position.
Right-to-work: Right for Maine
The myths about right-to-work crumble when faced with any level of scrutiny, and fail to provide any evidence as to why right-to-work should not be enacted.
Right-to-work is a beneficial and free market solution that keeps with our American tradition of freedom and opportunity.
Studies have even shown that in right-to-work states, where there is increased economic freedom, there are more jobs and lower unemployment rates, higher population growth, increased investment, and greater economic growth.
In fact, of the 10 states with the best economic outlook for 2015, every single one is a right-to-work state. If Maine would like to join this group of rising states, it should learn from their experiences and adopt right-to-work.