Indiana working families are gearing up to fight state Republican lawmakers’ attempt to ram through a “right to work” for less bill—and a new report reveals the corporate lies behind backers’ claims that “right to work” laws boost wages.
Marty Wolfson, an economics professor at the University of Notre Dame’s Higgins Labor Studies Program, finds that contrary to proponents’ claims—such as those by the Chamber of Commerce, the extremist American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and others—so-called right to work laws actually lower wages for all workers, union and nonunion alike.
While Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) and Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R) wave around statistics-loaded reports they claim show how such laws increase wages, those reports, says Wolfson, cook the books by using unreliable and biased figures.
“Right to work” for less advocates also claim that wages in so-called right to work states are actually higher than elsewhere, after taking into account the variable cost of living. The formula the Chamber and others use compares the cost of living for professional and managerial households in the top income brackets.
Gordon Lafer, a professor at University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center, says that formula “doesn’t tell us about real costs of living for the other 80 percent of people.”
It may be that the cost of country club memberships or personal trainers are low in a given city, but that doesn’t make things easier for regular employees.
Notre Dame’s Wolfson finds that when a more reliable cost-of-living methodology is used—one that aims at measuring costs for an average family rather than the most privileged—we see that so-called right to work states actually have lower wages—even when adjusting for cost of living.
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