‘Right-to-work’ drains middle class: Opinion |

‘Right-to-work’ drains middle class: Opinion

Published: Sunday, December 30, 2012, 6:00 AM     Updated: Sunday, December 30, 2012, 6:05 AM
RightToWork.JPGUnion members from around the country rally at the Michigan State Capitol to protest a vote on “right-to-work” legislation this month in Lansing. The bill was signed into law, banning requiring financial support of a union as a condition of employment.

By Stephen Sweeney

I believe people enjoy the benefits that the labor movement has provided us: weekends, holidays, fair wages and safe work environments. It is for that reason that I am firmly opposed to the tea party reform movement called “right-to-work.”

This so-called reform, spearheaded by fringe elements, has led to the slashing of workers’ rights and will decimate our middle class. “Right-to-work” legislation is tea party slang for destroying the rights of people to earn a decent wage and make a solid living.

“Right-to-work” laws can have devastating impacts on workers and a state’s economy as a whole. For workers, these laws mean an erosion of their bargaining power, and that is for both public- and private-sector workers. It is an attempt to drain unions of funds necessary to fight for fair wages and good working conditions.

It also means diminished wages. According to the AFL-CIO, on average, workers in states with “right-to-work” laws are paid $5,538 less a year than workers in states without these laws.

Moreover, these laws have been shown to actually benefit the wealthier classes at the expense of workers. A 2007 Hofstra University study found that “right-to-work” laws boost the number of businesses in a state … but the benefits went mostly to the business owners, while wages for average workers fell.

In addition, a 2010 study by the Kauffman Foundation ranked states on how well “the structure of state economies match the ideal structure of the New Economy.”

Nine of the top 10 states in the study did not have “right-to-work” laws, while eight of the bottom 10 states did have these laws. States with “right-to-work” laws also have a higher rate of work-related fatalities than those without — 52.9 percent higher, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

New Jersey has already witnessed hard times for working people and working families. More people are living in poverty now than three years ago, and the middle class has shrunk. We rank second in the nation in foreclosures. We certainly can’t afford to see “right-to-work” come to New Jersey, and it will never happen as long as I am Senate president.

The organized effort to protect workers rights, your rights, is one of the things that has made our country great. It is because of these efforts that we have a minimum wage, a 40-hour work week and a safe, sanitary place to work. 

They are the reason a strong middle class is even possible in our country and our state.

We should be boosting the middle class and protecting working people. We should not be undercutting them. That’s what “right-to-work” does. That is why I’ll never support it, and that is why we have to fight against it here in New Jersey and across the country.

Stephen Sweeney (D-Gloucester) is New Jersey Senate president.

‘Right-to-work’ drains middle class: Opinion |

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