As unions protest Yuengling, who’s right about ‘Right-to-Work’?
This weekend, workers from about 20 unions headed up to Pottsville, Pennsylvania to protest against beermaker Dick Yuengling, owner of the PA-based Yuengling Brewery, over his support of a set of laws known as ‘Right to Work.’
Yuengling, who was recently named the 371st richest person in the United States (his reported fortune: $1.4 billion), told the Pennsylvania press club this summer he’d like Pennsylvania to embrace right-to-work laws, claiming it’d bring more jobs to the commonwealth.
Unions across the state had previously called for a boycott of Yuengling products after the Press Club speech. This weekend was the first march at the brewery’s home.
Opponents of right-to-work often claim it doesn’t help workers, but rather shrinks their bargaining power to put more money in the pockets of owners and administration. Proponents say it gives workers more freedom from Big Labor.
The way it works, many jobs require union membership when you’re hired. That membership, of course, requires dues and helps workers when negotiating contracts. The goal of Right-to-Work is giving workers the option of whether or not to pay dues when they’re hired. This, over the long run, starves the union and provides less support when it comes time to negotiate contracts.
Both sides of the issue were brought to light when I wrote about it this summer, around Yuengling’s initial comments—though this was not the first time he vocally supported conservative politics. Part of the problem with right-to-work laws (besides the slick name) is the argument and statistic finagling on both sides of the issue:
So, Yuengling says right-to-work creates jobs. Union proponents say it doesn’t. Who’s right?
The answer may come from a 2007 Hofstra University study. It found that RTW laws do help boost the raw number of businesses in a state (score one for Yuengling) but numeric monetary gains mostly go to owners while wages go down (score one for the union advocates…and Yuengling?) A 2011 Economic Policy Institute study found right-to-work states have lower wages on the whole.
Right-to-work may also have the tendency to turn employees who receive union benefits into freeloaders by not having to pay dues.
According to the Washington Post: “A 1998 survey of the econometric literature by William J. Moore found that right-to-work laws lead to more free-riding behavior among employees. That, in turn, leads to a decline in unionization drives, in organizing successes, and ultimately in overall union density. Recently, Idaho and Oklahoma saw their union densities drop after adopting right-to-work laws in the early 2000s.”
The AFL-CIO also says that average workers in the 24 right-to-work states earn about $1,500 less per year than their counterparts in the 26 states without such laws (often referred to as “forced-unionism states” by conservative groups). AFL-CIO has also put out this list of union-made American beers.
Michigan and Wisconsin, classically known as union-friendly states, recently became right-to-work states amidst hard battles and protests in those states’ capitals.
Gov. Tom Corbett, who supports anti-union legislation, has said that the commonwealth “lacks the will” to pass such laws.
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