A study analyzing the effect of Right-to-Work (RTW) laws finds a correlation between decreased unionization and a rise in occupational fatalities.
RTW laws, which are in effect in 27 U.S. states, weaken labor unions by prohibiting employees in unionized workplaces from negotiating contracts which require all members who benefit from the union contract to contribute to the costs of union representation.
A 14.2 percent increase in workplace deaths
The study, published in the medical journal BMJ, looked at the period from 1992 to 2016 and found that RTW laws “have led to a 14.2 percent increase in occupational mortality through decreased unionization.” Specifically, a one percent decline in unionization attributable corresponds to an approximately 5% increase in the rate of occupational fatalities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the rate of workplace fatalities is 54 percent higher in right-to-work states.
The study’s authors concluded that the findings “illustrate and quantify the protective effect of unions on workers’ safety. Policymakers should consider the potentially deleterious effects of anti-union legislation on occupational health.”
“Unions give workers the freedom to speak up about hazards on the job without fear of retaliation,” said International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers President Lonnie R. Stephenson. “Right-to-work laws weaken our voice on the job, and that leads to unreported safety hazards and higher accident and death rates.”
Chamber points to economic growth
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, however, says RTA laws are good for the economy, and points to a report by NERA Economic Consulting linking RTW laws to increased economic growth, lower unemployment rates and higher personal incomes. Additionally, NERA said businesses “tend to locate in RTW states, as evidenced by the more rapid growth of firms and establishments.”
The Chamber says those opposed to RTA laws “cherry pick data” to make their case.