Shortcut Navigation:

'Right to Work' for Less

Extremist groups, right-wing politicians and their corporate backers want to weaken the power of workers and their unions through so-called right to work for less laws. Their efforts are a partisan political ploy that undermines the basic rights of workers. By making unions weaker, these laws lower wages and living standards for all workers in the state. In fact, workers in states with these laws earn an average of $5,680 less a year than workers in other states. Because of the higher wages, working families in states without these laws also benefit from healthier tax bases that improve their quality of life. “Right to work for less" is closer to the truth.

States with "Right to Work" Laws Have:

Lower Wages and Incomes

  • The average worker in states with "right to work" laws makes $1,540 a year less when all other factors are removed than workers in other states.1
  • Median household income in states with these laws is $6,437 less than in other states ($46,402 vs. $52,839).2
  • In states with "right to work" laws, 26.7 percent of jobs are in low-wage occupations, compared with 19.5 percent of jobs in other states.3

Less Job-Based Health Insurance Coverage

  • People in states with "right to work" laws are more likely to be uninsured (16.8 percent, compared with 13.1 percent overall; among children, it’s 10.8 percent vs. 7.5 percent).4
  • They’re less likely to have job-based health insurance than people in other states (56.2 percent, compared with 60.1 percent).5
  • Only 50.7 percent of employers in states with these laws offer insurance coverage to their employees, compared with 55.2 percent in other states. That difference is even more significant among small employers (with fewer than 50 workers)—only 34.4 percent of them offer workers health insurance, compared with 41.7 percent of small employers in other states.6

Higher Poverty and Infant Mortality Rates

  • Poverty rates are higher in states with "right to work" laws (15.3 percent overall and 21.5 percent for children), compared with poverty rates of 13.1 percent overall and 18.1 percent for children in states without these laws.7
  • The infant mortality rate is 15 percent higher in states with these laws.8

Less Investment in Education

  • States with "right to work" laws spend $3,392 less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than other states, and students are less likely to be performing at their appropriate grade level in math and reading.9

Higher Rates of Death on the Job

  • The rate of workplace deaths is 36 percent higher in states with these laws, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.10

1 Economic Policy Institute.
2 U.S. Census Bureau, Table H-8. Median Household Income by State.
3 CFED, Asset and Opportunity Scorecard.
4 Kaiser Family Foundation
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Census Bureau, POV46: Poverty Status by State: 2010, related children under 18Table 19. Percent of Persons in Poverty, by State: 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Kaiser Family Foundation.
9 National Education Association, Rankings & Estimates–Rankings of the States 2011 and Estimates of School Statistics 2012, December 2011; CFED, Asset & Opportunity Scorecard.
10 AFL-CIO, Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect, April 2012.

Online Community

Take Action

Stop Fast Track

Sign the petition and tell Congress to stop the Fast Track bill, it's undemocratic and bad for working families.

Contact Us

For more information and model legislation on a wide variety of working families’ state issues, including corporate accountability, green jobs, state budgets and taxes, family and medical leave, work share, WARN Act, unemployment insurance, safety and health, workers’ rights, immigration, retirement security and workforce investment, please contact:
AFL-CIO State Government Relations

Join Us Online