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So-Called Right to Work Is Still Wrong for Workers

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The annual state legislative folly that spurs pro-corporate lawmakers to introduce legislation to hack away at workplace rights and wages for millions of middle-class families is well underway. And it is failing -- again.

Despite the best efforts of the Koch brothers and their friends at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), so-called right-to-work measures have already gone down in flames in Kentucky, New Hampshire and Oregon. And the path to victory for big business is far from assured in Maine, Missouri, Ohio or Pennsylvania either.

It seems the public is becoming wise to their arguments. People see how the corporate class is putting a reduction in business tax rates first and investment in the future of our communities last. It's just another attempt by rich CEOs to tip the economic scales even more in their favor at the expense of hard-working Americans.

In Missouri, for example, about a thousand right-to-work opponents showed up at the state capitol late last month to call on lawmakers to defeat a measure current before the House. Many lawmakers there realize the measure is an attempted power grab by the same corporate cronies who have outsourced middle-class jobs overseas and offshore their profits to avoid paying taxes.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon (D) has promised to veto any such bill that makes it to his desk. That's why right-to-work supporters are also floating a ballot initiative that would skirt the governor and place the issue on the Aug. 5 primary ballot for the public to consider. A vote could come on the legislation as soon as tomorrow and about two dozen Republicans either oppose or have raised concerns about the matter.

But even that idea is making some anti-union lawmakers squirm. Despite efforts by national gadflies like anti-tax activist Grover Norquist to turn up the heat on the state's Legislature, members note even if legislation clears the Missouri House, it would face a more difficult path in the Senate. It might not be worth putting their necks on the line just to see it go down anyway.

The course is even more tenuous for ALEC and its supporters in the other states, with Ohio looking at a possible state constitutional amendment being placed on the November ballot while proposed measures in Maine and Pennsylvania appear to be the least likely to be approved.

There are many reasons for this. Despite what corporate cronies claim, so-called right-to-work doesn't create an environment that is good for workers or companies. In fact, a recent quality of life report released by Politico found the bottom five states -- Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama -- are right-to-work states. Meanwhile, four out of five with the highest quality of living -- New Hampshire, Minnesota, Vermont and Massachusetts -- are free bargaining states.

Right-to-work is a ruse. These laws depress wages, resulting in workers making about $1,500 less than those living in non-RTW states. They are also more likely not to receive health insurance and more likely to work in a dangerous workplace. In addition, it is proven not to be a deciding factor in where businesses locate.

Lawmakers must resist the cheap corporate rhetoric pushed by ALEC and others that makes right-to-work seem like a solution. It isn't. All it seems to help create is less pay, less freedom in the workplace and maybe most important of all, a smaller middle class. If that's seen by some as progress, government should be taking a pass on it.