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Deceptive Right to Work Laws Hurt Everyone

By many measures, quality of life is worse in states with right to work laws. Wages are lower, people are less likely to have health insurance and the necessary resources for a quality education, poverty levels are higher as are workplace fatality rates.

States with Right to Work Laws Have Lower Wages and Incomes

  • On average, workers in states with right to work laws make $6,109 a year (12.1%) less annually than workers in other states ($44,401, compared with $50,511).1
  • Median household income in states with these laws is $8,174 (13.9%) less than in other states ($50,712 vs. $58,886).2
  • 29.6 percent of jobs in right to work states were in low-wage occupations, compared with 22.8% of jobs in other states.3

States with Right to Work Laws Have Lower Rates of Health Insurance Coverage

  • People under the age of 65 in states with right to work laws are more likely to be uninsured (13.0%, compared with 9.4% in free-bargaining states).4
  • Only 47% of private-sector employers in states with these laws offer insurance coverage to their employees, compared with 52.2% in other states.5 That difference is even more pronounced among employers with fewer than 50 workers: only 30.1% offer health insurance compared with 38.1% of small employers in other states.6
  • Workers in right to work states also pay a larger share of their health insurance premiums, on average, than those in free-bargaining states (28.5% of the premium compared with 25.4% in free-bargaining states).7

States with Right to Work Laws Have Higher Poverty and Infant Mortality Rates

  • Poverty rates are higher in states with right to work laws (15.3% overall and 21.4% for children), compared with poverty rates of 12.8% overall and 18.0% for children in states without these laws.8
  • The infant mortality rate is 12.4% higher in states with right to work laws.9

States with Right to Work Laws Invest Less in Education

  • States with right to work laws spend 32.5% less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than other states.10

States with Right to Work Laws Have Higher Workplace Fatality Rates

  • The rate of workplace deaths is 49% higher in states with right to work laws, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.11

1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (all industries, all establishments, average annual pay), 2014 data. Numbers are rounded ($50,510.58 and $44,401.17).
2 U.S. Census Bureau, Table H-8. Median Household Income by State: 1984 to 2014.
3 CFED, Asset and Opportunity Scorecard, Low Wage Jobs, 2013.
4 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Health Insurance Coverage of Nonelderly 0–64.
5 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Percent of Private Sector Establishments that Offer Health Insurance to their Employees, 2013.
6 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Percent of Private Sector Establishments That Offer Health Insurance to their Employees, by firm size, 2013.
7 CFED, Employee Share of the Premium, 2014.
8 U.S. Census Bureau, POV46: Poverty Status by State: 2014 Below 100% and 50% of Poverty — All Ages; POV46: Poverty Status by State: 2014 Below 100% and 50% of Poverty — People Under 18 Years of Age, Weighted Person Count.
9 Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, Infant Mortality Rates (deaths per 1,000 live births), 2013.
10 National Education Association, Ranking & Estimates - Rankings of the States 2015 and Estimates of School Statistics 2016, Table H-11. Current Expenditures for Public K-12 Schools Per Student in Fall Enrollment, 2014-15 ($). Note: Wisconsin was excluded from the free-bargaining states vs. right to work state analysis for education spending because the state enacted its right to work law in 2015. The impact of right to work policies would not have been fully experienced in the 2014–2015 school year. In addition, West Virginia is included as a free bargaining state in this analysis of 2014–2015 school year data because the state passed right to work legislation in 2016.
11 Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in 2014.

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Right to Work Is Wrong for Your Family—Whether You Are Union or Not. Here’s Why

Jesse Isbell
Right to Work Is Wrong for Your Family—Whether You Are Union or Not. Here’s Why

I spent 36 years working at the Bridgestone Tire plant in Oklahoma City. The work was hard but rewarding. It afforded me the opportunity to provide for my family, always ensure there was enough food at the table and that my kids were afforded every modest opportunity to grow up in a household that was stable, secure and free from worry. That all changed suddenly in 2006, five years after Oklahoma passed a "right to work" law that was billed by politicians as a job creator. For the 1,400 men and women who worked at the plant, right to work didn’t work as advertised. Not only did the plant close, but the effects of the closing and the chilling effect that right to work has on a state’s economy were felt by everyone.

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