Report on "Right to Work"

Workers deserve to be treated with dignity

        A newly-released report by the Higgins Labor Studies Program at the University of Notre Dame discusses "right-to-work" (RTW) legislation, recently considered by the Indiana legislature, which would prevent unions and employers from negotiating a requirement that employees pay their "fair share" for union costs such as collective bargaining and grievance representation.   The report has been presented to workers and other citizens rallying in Indianapolis as well as to Indiana legislators.

        The report comes as a response to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce’s January report promoting RTW legislation, which claims that RTW would raise incomes for Indiana residents.  In fact, key to the Chamber’s argument, as the Higgins report notes, is that a RTW law would result in lower wages.   The Chamber contends that lower wages would attract businesses to Indiana, which would promote economic growth, which would – in the long run – lead to higher wages.

        The Higgins report criticizes the contradictory idea that the best way to raise wages is to first lower wages – and the "low-road" approach to economic development and "trickle-down" economic theory on which the Chamber's report is based. 

        The Higgins report also found major problems and inconsistencies in the Chamber's data analysis, in particular the Chamber's one-sided and selective attempt to demonstrate that RTW states have higher rates of growth of real personal income than do non-RTW states.  Using a more balanced analysis, the Higgins report found that

  • Using data for more than just the two years the Chamber selects leads to the conclusion that growth rates for real personal income were actually higher in RTW states before RTW laws were passed than after.
  • Broadening the analysis to consider levels of income rather than just rates of change shows that non-RTW states have a higher level of income than do RTW states.

        The Higgins Labor Studies Program is named for Monsignor George G. Higgins, who was a tireless advocate for working people and a resolute voice for Catholic social teaching on workers’ rights.  Msgr. Higgins defended the rights of workers to organize unions and to bargain collectively for compensation that allowed workers and their families to live in dignity.

Read the report: "Right to Work" vs. The Rights of Workers