Back to Top

Catholic Campaign for Human Development of St. Louis: ALEC's So-Called 'Right to Work' Laws "Hurt Workers and Families"

UPDATE: Meg Olson of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of St. Louis called to clairify that the blog post linked below is from the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of St. Louis. A previous version of this post attributed it to the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

Important stuff out of the Catholic Campaign for Human Development of St. Louis, posted Monday

For the past several years, some members of our state legislature have been trying to make Missouri a “Right to Work” state. This year is no different: 17 Right to Work bills have been filed this session. Last month, HB 116 was voted out of the House, and tomorrow, the Senate Committee Small Business, Industry, and Insurance will hear SB 127.While it is unlikely that these bills will become a law this legislative session, it important for all Catholics to understand how Right to Work laws hurt workers and families and contradicts our Church’s social teachings on the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers.
     
At a first glance, Right to Work sounds like a law that protects workers’ rights: “Why shouldn’t I be able to work without an obligation to my job sector’s union?  It’s my right not to pay unions to negotiate the contract—I don’t belong to the union and it’s my money!” Sadly, this attitude reflects our increasingly individualistic society where one privileges his rights above the common good. Not only does Right to Work fracture the sense of solidarity among workers that unions help foster, but it also can put employees’ basic rights and protections into peril.
      
There is a good reason why Pope Leo XIII declared over 120 years ago that, “the most important of all [workplace associations and organizations] are workingmen’s unions” (On the Condition of Laborno. 49). In Right to Work states, the unions’ inability to collect dues from all workers to cover the costs of a of a contract negotiation ends up impacting workers and their families across all employment sectors, both  public and private, union and non-union. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2013 the average worker in Right to Work states made nearly $6,000 less annually than workers in free-bargaining states. Additionally, they are less likely to have job-based health insurance, and, if they do have employer-sponsored insurance, they pay a larger share of health insurance premiums than workers in free-bargaining states. One of the most sobering statistics is on the disparity of safety standards: in 2014 the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the rate of workplace deaths is 36% higher in Right to Work states than in free-bargaining states.
     
It is fair to believe that our legislators want the best for the people of Missouri, including just wages and benefits, decent working conditions, and the ability to provide for the needs of their families. However, there are national organizations that value profits over the dignity of the human person and do not respect the rights of workers, and they are trying to influence law-makers across the country. As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI observed in Caritas in Veritate, unions are experiencing “great difficulty in carrying out their task of representing the interests of workers, partly because governments often limit the freedom or negotiating capacity of labor unions.” He also declared that, “the repeated calls issued within the Church’s social doctrine for the promotion of workers’ associations that can defend workers’ rights must be honored today even more than in the past” (no. 25). As Catholics, it is our duty to go forth and proclaim our Church's teachings to all. Let us also pray that the people of Missouri—especially our lawmakers—continue to honor workers and support unions’ efforts to protect them and their families.