Right-to-work: Don't Bite - your safety and future depend on it!

Right-to-work: Don’t Bite – your safety and future depend on it!

If you live in a right-to-work state, your chances of getting hurt or dying on the job skyrocket.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in December 2016 that the rate of workplace deaths is 49 percent greater in right-to-work states than in states that don’t have right-to-work laws.

Public employees in New York state are protected by the state Public Employees Safety and Health (PESH) Law, one of the strongest state workplace safety and health laws in the nation. CSEA helped to pass that law, which was enacted in 1980.

In addition to strong enforcement, many of our contracts also include provisions to ensure that employers provide us with proper training and equipment.

Under right-to-work laws, it would be much more challenging to ensure your workplace safety, including proper staffing levels, adequate equipment and training.

As this edition went to press, 28 states have right-to-work laws on the books, and several other states are considering such legislation. On Feb. 1, federal right-to-work legislation was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.

While that specific legislation targets private-sector workers, we can’t afford to be complacent. Any state is subject to right-to-work. Wisconsin, the birthplace of AFSCME and once also a strong labor state, has seen its union membership rates, wages and benefits gutted by right-to-work and the 2011 Act 10 law that weakened collective bargaining.

While right-to-work seems like a worker-friendly term, in reality, it’s anything but friendly for us.

In right-to-work states, unionized employees are not required to pay for union representation, although they receive the benefits of membership, weakening unions’ power.

Right-to-work also affects wages, with workers in those states making an average of 12.1 percent less annually than those in states without these laws. Poverty rates are also higher in right-to-work states (15.3 percent).

Simply put, right-to-work is wrong.

— Janice Gavin

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About Author

Janice Gavin

Janice Gavin is the editor of The Work Force and CSEA’s special interest publications, Essentially Women, Retiree News and Canary. A graduate of SUNY Plattsburgh and Syracuse University, Gavin has been a journalist and public relations professional for more than 20 years. She worked as a newspaper reporter and bureau chief at the Plattsburgh Press-Republican, where she was honored with Associated Press and New York Newspaper Publishers Association awards. Gavin joined CSEA as a communications specialist in the union's Southern Region in 2000. In 2004, she became The Work Force's associate editor, a position she held until becoming the publication's editor in 2017. Growing up in a union household, she is dedicated to improving workers’ lives through telling their stories.

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