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The dangers of "Right to Work"

You’ve probably heard about Governor Rauner’s latest attempt to harm workers and the unions that represent us. He deceptively calls them “employee empowerment zones” and claims they would give communities more freedom to choose, but don’t be fooled. His politically-motivated plan is simply “right to work” (RTW) in disguise, and it would be disastrous for Illinois communities. Here’s why.

RTW laws take away workers’ voices on the job and destroy their communities. They are a scheme to boost profits for corporations and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans on the backs of middle-class families. In states like Michigan, Indiana, and others that have these dangerous laws, communities and all workers – union and non-union – have suffered.

Not only would Rauner's RTW "empowerment zones" drive down compensation and your voice in the workplace, but these anti-worker policies could allow employers to decide what - if anything - is a mandatory subject of bargaining (like wages, benefits, and working conditions). Collective bargaining topics are defined by state law, but Governor Rauner is encouraging school districts and local governments to preempt it. This is what we saw happen in Wisconsin and is simply an attempt to destroy unions.

2013 study conducted by the University of Illinois and University of Michigan tells the
whole story, and another study from 2015 backs it up.

If implemented in Illinois, RTW would:

    •    Lower wages
    •    Increase unemployment
    •    Decrease union membership
    •    Reduce worker benefits
    •    Increase gender and racial inequality
    •    Make workplaces less safe
    •    Reduce state revenue

Even the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, a group that opposes a higher minimum wage, thinks “right to work” is wrong for our communities. “Illinois doesn’t need ‘right to work’ to compete with our neighbors,” the Chamber said. That’s because when wages are driven down, the economy suffers and jobs are lost.

“Right to work” isn’t just a union issue – it would harm us all. Let’s keep it out of Illinois!  
What is the impact of RTW laws? Keep reading. The numbers don’t lie.

RTW is a middle class issue.

RTW laws cause a decline in union membership. Such a decline has proven (for decades!) to coincide with the shrinking and disenfranchisement of the middle class.

union membership and middle class

For more on why the middle class needs unions, click here!

RTW is a worker issue.

RTW laws affect the livelihood of ALL workers (union & non-union).


How does this affect both union and non-union workers?

In places where unions are strong, they create pressure for non-union employers to improve their wages, benefits, and conditions in order to attract the best workers.

“Right-to-work” laws weaken unions’ ability to advocate for their members, resulting in lower wages and benefits in union workplaces. This creates a negative spillover effect, when non-union employers no longer have to compete with high standards, and then cut compensation as well. Everyone loses.
 Read the full report.

RTW is a wage issue.

With RTW, unions would no longer set wages in many industries, including construction, the trades, healthcare, and education. Collective bargaining agreements negotiated through unions allow workers to get paid what they deserve, and those extra dollars per hour add up! Read the full 2014 State of the Unions Report.


RTW is a family issue.

According to data compiled by the AFL-CIOmedian household income is significantly lower in RTW states. In fact, this difference can be more than SIX THOUSAND dollars per year, directly impacting families’ earnings.  

rtw median income states

RTW states are noted with a red circle.

RTW is an (un)employment issue.

Seven of the 12 states with the highest unemployment have “right-to-work” laws.
See for yourself what happened in Oklahoma after RTW was introduced:


Read the full 2015 report on why “Right to Work” is the Wrong Answer for Wisconsin’s Economy.

RTW is an equality issue.


RTW’s negative effects
 can even be seen with regard to race and ethnicity.

RTW is a fairness issue.

It’s no secret that unions foster fairness in the workplace. An ongoing study by the International Monetary Fund has already shown that a decline in unionization (AKA, more RTW!) in recent decades has allowed for a rise in inequality. RTW enables the rich to get richer and leaves the rest of us behind. That’s why groups like ALEC and the Koch brothers support it.


The financial ratings agency Moody’s said: “Since laws that hurt unions shift the balance of power from employees to owners, they tend to erode wages and lead to a more uneven distribution of the gains of economic wealth.”

RTW is a human rights issue.

The benefits of collective bargaining run deep. The populations of RTW states have higher instances of poverty, crime, and infant mortality. Workers deserve to earn a wage that can support a family and live safe, healthy lives.




RTW is WRONG Flyer

IL AFL-CIO Fact Sheet

IFT Fact Sheet



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