How the Right-to-Work Movement Harms the Middle Class

Raymond Hogler, Colorado State University

“Right-to-work” laws – which allow workers to benefit from union collective bargaining without paying union dues – are spreading across the states. In an era when labor earnings have already declined, these laws disable unions and further undercut wages and benefits for American workers and their families.

Raymond Hogler’s new book, The End of American Unions: The Right-to-Work Movement and the Erosion of Collective Bargaining, makes the case that declining union participation has a direct link to income inequality. In his book and related Key Findings brief, Hogler traces the history of modern U.S. labor law and finds that past and current versions of right-to-work legislation completely reverse the original intent of New Deal labor breakthroughs. Hogler’s research has been discussed in the Washington Post and in entries appearing on March 17 and 18, 2015 at the In These Times blog.

A previous SSN brief by Hogler on “How the American Labor Movement Can Counter ‘Right to Work’ Campaigns against Unions,” outlines fresh strategies for such battles at the state level.

Raymond Hogler has taught labor policy for three decades in the Department of Management at Colorado State University. His scholarship focuses especially on how legislation affects workers and labor organizations. He also does work on comparative employment systems and recently taught as a Fulbright Fellow at the University of Tuscia in Viterbo, Italy.

More briefs and media contributions from many SSN scholars who have done research on labor unions and the future of the U.S. labor movement can be found at our Working Group on the Future of the Labor Movement pages. Notably, a brief by Bruce Western of Harvard University and Jake Rosenfeld of the University of Washington documents that union decline leads to eroding wages and rising economic inequality for all workers in surrounding regions, including those who are not themselves union members.

April 2015