Wages, Safety Lower in Right-to-Work States, Lawmakers Told

Charleston Gazette-Mail - Legislators heard the pros and cons Sunday of proposed legislation to make West Virginia a right-to-work state, with proponents saying it will help grow the state's economy, and opponents calling it an effort to destroy unions and hurt working-class families. Read

Both sides agreed that average wages are lower in right-to-work states, but differed on whether that is a good or bad thing.

James Shirk, a research fellow for the conservative Heritage Foundation, agreed that overall wage rates are 3 percent lower in right-to-work states, but said almost all right-to-work states also have lower costs of living.

"Right-to-work states attract investments and jobs," he said, saying it's no coincidence that foreign automakers have located plants in right-to-work states in the southeast.

Right-to-work laws prohibit union membership, or payment of union dues, as a condition of employment.

Shirk likened unions to monopolies, which he said have no incentive to improve their quality of service.

"Unions do not have to earn their members' support," he said. "Whether they serve them well or not, they have to pay ."

Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, said not only are wages lower in right-to-work states, but workplace safety is 54 percent lower. Citing recent mine disasters, Perdue suggested the state should not do anything that could weaken workplace safety.

"A right-to-work law does nothing to help West Virginia's economy, and hurts West Virginia working families," he said. "This is not about job creation. It's about attacking unions."


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