The Truth About ‘Right to Work’ for Less

Compare Pennsylvania with states that have “right to work” for less laws. You’ll see why we’re better off without one.

Anti-worker and business-backed groups are pushing to pass a so-called “right to work” law here in Pennsylvania. Supporters claim these laws create economic prosperity, but many different measures show Pennsylvania’s working families are better off than working families in states with “right to work” for less laws.

Wages and Incomes

  • Median weekly wages in 20 of the 22 states with these laws are lower than the $740 median weekly wage in Pennsylvania. Median weekly wages in Pennsylvania in 2009 were $60 per week more than the average for states with “right to work” for less laws, and nearly $150 a week more than the earnings in “right to work” for less states like Arkansas ($596) and Mississippi ($595).
  • Average annual pay in 20 of the 22 states with these laws is lower than the average annual pay in Pennsylvania. In 2009, the average annual pay in states with “right to work” for less laws was $39,169, $5,660 less than the average annual pay in Pennsylvania of $44,829.
  • And average annual pay in the “right to work” for less states of South Dakota and Mississippi is $10,000 less than pay here in Pennsylvania.
  • Our income is greater here in Pennsylvania, too. Median income in our state is 14 percent higher than the average median income for states with “right to work” for less laws, and is higher than the median income in 15 of the 22 “right to work” for less states.
  • Our jobs are less likely to pay poverty wages. On average, 28.3 percent of jobs in states with “right to work” laws are in occupations that pay poverty wages, compared with 22.1 percent of jobs here in Pennsylvania.

Poverty

  • Poverty is higher in states with these laws. All residents and children in states with “right to work” for less laws have a 31.0 percent and 39.7 percent greater chance of being poor, respectively, than we do in Pennsylvania. In 2009, the Pennsylvania overall and child poverty rates were 11.1 percent and 14.5 percent, respectively, compared with a 14.5 percent overall poverty rate and 20.3 percent child poverty rate for states with these laws.
  • The difference becomes even more evident when you look at the poverty rates for states with “right to work” for less laws like Arizona (overall poverty rate of 25.8 percent and child poverty rate of 38 percent) and Mississippi (overall poverty rate of 28.9 percent and child poverty rate of 39.8 percent).

Safety and Health

  • Workplaces in “right to work” states are much more dangerous. Residents of states with these laws also are 34.8 percent more likely to be killed on the job than Pennsylvania residents. The fatal occupational injury rate in Pennsylvania in 2008 was 4.0 (per every 100,000 workers), compared with an average of 5.4 in states with “right to work” for less laws.
  • When workers do get hurt on the job in states with these laws, the average maximum weekly benefit is $158, 21.2 percent less than in Pennsylvania.

Unemployment

  • Maximum weekly unemployment benefits are also higher in Pennsylvania than in “right to work” for less states. Unemployed Pennsylvania workers receive a weekly maximum benefit of $572, compared with an average maximum benefit of only $363 per week in states with these laws.

Health Care

  • We’re also more likely to have health insurance than people in states with these laws. Residents of states with “right to work” for less laws were 46.3 percent more likely to be uninsured in 2009 than we are here in Pennsylvania. In 2009, 11.4 percent of Pennsylvanians were uninsured, compared with an average of 16.7 percent in “right to work” states. The difference is even more dramatic when you look at states like Florida (22.4 percent uninsured), Georgia (20.5 percent uninsured), Nevada (20.8 percent uninsured) and Texas (26.1 percent uninsured), all of which have “right to work” for less laws.
  • Children in states with these laws are 52.4 percent more likely to be uninsured than children here in Pennsylvania. In states with these laws, 10.4 percent of children are uninsured, compared with 6.8 percent in Pennsylvania.
  • We’re also 12.4 percent more likely to have job- based health insurance than residents of states with “right to work” for less laws. In Pennsylvania, 67.6 percent of residents younger than 65 have job- based health insurance, compared with 60.1 percent in states with these laws.
  • Pennsylvania employers also are much more likely to offer health insurance to their workers than employers in states with these laws. Here in Pennsylvania, 63.0 percent of all employers offer health insurance to their workers, compared with 50.3 percent of employers in states with “right to work” for less laws. The difference is even more dramatic for small firms employing less than 50 workers; 49.4 percent of small employers in Pennsylvania offer their employees health insurance, compared with an average of 34.6 percent of small employers in states with “right to work” for less laws.

Pensions

  • We’re more likely to have pensions, too. Only 43 percent of private-sector workers have employer- provided pension coverage in “right to work” for less states, compared with 50.8 percent here in Pennsylvania.

Education

  • Students here also are more likely to be at grade level in math and reading. In Pennsylvania, 38.3 percent of 8th grade students were proficient in math in 2007 (compared with 29.6 percent of students in states with “right to work” for less laws), and 36.4 percent were proficient in reading (compared with 28.1 percent).
  • States with these laws spend less to educate their children than we do here in Pennsylvania—$9,005 per student for the 2008–2009 school year, compared with $12,032 here in Pennsylvania

 

SOURCES: Corporation for Enterprise Development; Economic Policy Institute; Elise Gould, Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Erosion Accelerates in the Recession—Public Safety Net Catches Kids but Fails to Adequately Insure Adults, Economic Policy Institute, Nov. 16, 2010; U.S. House Committee on Ways and Means; U.S. Census Bureau; U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics; U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration.
Job-based health insurance coverage is for people younger than 65 and for 2008–2009. Pension coverage is for workers ages 18 to 64 who worked at least 20 hours per week and 26 weeks per year. The time period covered is a 2006–2008 three-year moving average.