The race between Democrat Jay Inslee and Republican Rob McKenna for the next Governor of the State of Washington has high stakes for working class people.  McKenna is well know for his labor union busting and his anti-working class remarks and policy preferences.

Many working class citizens fear that Rob McKenna will try to change Washington State labor law to prohibit labor unions from setting their own membership policies.  Specifically, they fear he will try to make Washington an open shop state  with destructive “right-to-work” laws.  Below is an analysis of the effects of “right-to-work” laws on median per capita annual income.

“Right – to – Work” means the “Right to Lower Wages”

Most of us have heard the term “Right – to – Work”, but what does it mean to those of us who have to “work” for a living (and that would include most of us)? Well, I decided to investigate the numbers.  The percentages tell a story, and it is a sad one at that.  As the saying goes, “Anyone has a right to their opinion, but no one has exclusive right to the facts.”

Here are the fact.   The Ten Poorest states in America are as follows, in order of their median income:

1) Mississippi is the POOREST state with a median annual income of not quite $37K, followed by
2) Arkansas at $38K
3) Tennessee with only $40K
4) West Virginia at almost $41K
5) Louisiana with almost $42K
6) Montana at $42K
7) South Carolina is almost tied with Montana at a bit more than $42K
8) Kentucky is in a virtual three way tie with SC & Montana also @ $42K
9) Alabama’s median income is just above $42K and finally,
10) North Carolina rounds out our ten poorest states at $43K

Of the ten poorest states, only Kentucky, West Virginia and Montana have Free Collective Bargaining laws that protect workers with a strong organized labor presence in those states. That means that 70% of the poorest states in America are “Right-To-Work” states, or as some have half-jokingly clarified that title, “Right-To-Work For Less” states. The statistical analysis confirms that the “half-joke” is really a bad joke played on the workforce of those unfortunate, less wealthy states.

But, not being satisfied with only half of the equation, I looked closer; where do the wealthiest states fit in to this theory that states with strong collective bargaining laws are better off financially? Well, those numbers are yet more convincing. The following are the ten wealthiest states in America:

1) The wealthiest state in the USA is (drum roll please) little ol’ unassuming New Hampshire with and annual median income of just over $66K
2) The second wealthiest state is Connecticut with almost $66K
3) New Jesey is at $65K
4) Maryland at $64.5K
5) Alaska at nearly $62K
6) Virginia at $61.5K
7) Massachusetts with $60K
8) Utah at almost $60K
9) Colorado with $59.5K
10) Hawaii is at just over $59K

Of the ten wealthiest states, 8 are Free Bargaining States. Only Utah and Virginia are “Right – To – Work” states; that’s a whopping 80% of the wealthiest among us enjoying the free collective bargaining rights, allowing a more equitable distribution of wealth. That could be called a super-majority. The numbers tell the story.

So, the next time you find yourself in a debate over the rights of workers to organize, just let the facts speak for you. The proof is in the pudding as they say, so here’s a healthy heaping serving of factual pudding for those who believe that “Right-To-Work” legislation is a good idea.

The more of us who know these facts, the better off we’ll all be eventually. After all, it is more true now than it was in the 18th century when uttered by our second President, that “A Nation that expects to be ignorant and free, expects that which has never been and never will be” – Thomas Jefferson. Ol’ Tom said a mouthful with that quote and it sums up the sad state of affairs we find ourselves in. Knowing facts such as these is not enough however. It is incumbent upon all who cherish democracy to share such information. Please feel free to copy, forward, and reprint thiscase study analysis and broadcast it’s message to everyone you know, personally and professionally; that message is “Right – To – Work” hurts working families not just in theory, but in fact.

Keith J. Milligan
Vice President – Local #105
American Federation of Musicians

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