'Right to work' is now law of the land in more than half of US states

Laws banning companies from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment have gained popularity in recent years among Republicans-dominated state legislatures. On Friday, West Virginia became the 26th state to join those ranks.

West Virginia became the 26th state to adopt a “right-to-work” law on Friday when the state legislature rebuked Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s vetoes of two highly contentious bills.

Most lawmakers voted along party lines, with Republicans arguing that the legislation is pro-growth and Democrats arguing that it will harm workers and lower wages. Although some Republicans voted “no,” only a simple majority was required to overturn the veto.

"Right-to-work" laws ban companies from requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment even as they continue to receive union benefits. The laws have gained popularity in recent years among Republicans-dominated state legislatures that view them as a way to spark economic growth.

Opponents say the laws reduce workers’ income by undermining organized labor, an institution with a long record of winning better pay and benefits for workers. But as Mark Trumbull reported for The Christian Science Monitor last March:

Years of study of right-to-work laws have not pointed to any clear and sweeping effects. Some scholarly research suggests the laws enhance job growth modestly. Others see the laws hitting worker wages with a modest ding. And in other cases, researchers have squinted hard at the data without finding meaningful evidence for or against right-to-work laws.

What seems clear is that the volume and tone of the debate over right-to-work laws far outstrips actual certainty about the impact.

In West Virginia, Republicans contend that the new law will boost the state’s beleaguered economy when it goes into effect on July 1. State Senate majority leader Mitch Carmichael called the veto override a “momentous occasion.”

“We’ve been attacked as some right-wing conspiracy group,” he said, according to West Virginia's Charleston Gazette-Mail. “We want prosperity, jobs, opportunity, growth and what we are doing is not working.”

Democrats say the law undermines unions without a clear benefit. In his veto, Governor Tomblin wrote that it would produce little to no economic growth and could lower wages.

Senate minority leader Jeff Kessler called the law, along with the repeal of the state’s prevailing wage law, a “double-barreled attack” on working families, reports the Gazette-Mail.

Republicans say repealing the prevailing wage law, which mandates a minimum wage for workers on state-funded construction sites, will save West Virginia money.

Democrats say its repeal will simply lead to out-of-state contractors winning construction contracts.

This report includes material from The Associated Press.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.