Right-to-Work is Wrong
By: JAMILAH NASHEED
As the Missouri Legislature returns to Jefferson City for its annual veto session, out-state extremists are pushing legislators to override Gov. Nixon’s veto of the so-called Right-to-Work law from earlier this year. I’ll be opposing their efforts and wanted to take a moment to explain why.
Right-to-Work laws have a good name, but little else. These laws result in lower wages, fewer benefits and less job security within the states that adopt them. Of the 20 states with the most low-paying jobs, 70 percent of them are Right-to-Work.
In 2013, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Utah and Indiana led the nation in bankruptcy filing rates. Not coincidentally, each one of them is a Right-to-Work state.
Studies show that if Missouri adopted Right-to-Work, workers’ wages would decrease by about $1,500 a year on average.
In all, overriding Gov. Nixon’s veto would take between $4.5 and $6 billion right out of the pockets of our state’s working families every year. Hundreds of millions of tax dollars would disappear right along with them – lowering the quality of our roads, schools and other public services.
My colleagues in the Legislature who support this bill even admitted that wages will go down if it’s passed. When an interviewer asked one sponsor to identify the companies that would relocate to Missouri if his bill became law, he couldn't name a single one.
That’s why opposition to it is and always will be bipartisan. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues on both side of the aisle against Right-to-Work and in support of Missouri’s working families.
It’s no secret that the African-American community has faced a slower economic recovery than others. Our neighborhoods are hurting and jobs are hard to come by.
Some suggest that Right-to-Work would benefit minority communities more than others. This couldn’t be further from the truth. So-called “union premiums” paid to union labor workers help close racial and ethnic wage gaps. The 17.3 percent and 23.1 percent wage bumps that African-American and Hispanic union workers receive compared to non-union workers outpace the 10.9 percent premium that their white counterparts enjoy.
If Right-to-Work becomes law, those jobs will be even harder to come by. And they'd be coupled with cuts to all sorts of social programs, like public transportation and the safety net. Far from having anything to gain with this law, the African-American community might actually have the most to lose should the legislature overturn Gov. Nixon’s veto.
Perhaps that’s why Dr. King warned us about false slogans like Right-to-Work and demanded “this fraud be stopped” over half a century ago!
Since that time, the realities surrounding this bad legislation have never changed. But many other things have. The wage gap has widened. CEO pay has skyrocketed. And our country’s middle-class has fallen further and further behind.
These are the problems we should be focusing on in Jefferson City. We need better schools, more jobs and Medicaid expansion, not lower wages, higher corporate profits and pure political payback. That’s why Right-to-Work is wrong for Missouri and why I oppose this bad legislation.
State Sen. Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis) represents Missouri’s 5th Senate District.