The economy is growing, business profits are up – way up – and unemployment is low. In the midst of this good news, the reality is that most working families continue to struggle to grow wages, ensure safe workplaces, stave off cuts to crucial health benefits and secure funding for vital services like quality education for our children. Proposition A, a so-called right-to-work bill, will make these struggles even harder. That is precisely what laws like this are designed to do, and it may even reverse advances for many Missouri workers.
High-minded rhetoric is typical in policy battles, but when each side offers supporting data, it is hard to know what to trust.
For example, Prop A supporters tout higher average “income” in states with laws similar to Prop A. But income includes stock dividends and interest on investments, owned primarily by the wealthiest. Working families typically do not have access to these forms of income and have to rely on wages from their hard work.
The most rigorous, verifiable and comprehensive studies, including a series from the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, show that average wages, health benefits and tax-funded services are lower, in some cases much lower, in states with laws similar to Prop A.
A 2015 study by the EPI found wages are 3.1 percent lower in states with laws like Prop A, even after controlling for other variables that impact wages, including demographics, full-time status, industry mix, unemployment rates and costs of living. A 2017 study by Frank Manzo IV and Robert Bruno [for the EPI in Illinois], examined the impact of the passage of laws like Prop A in Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. It found wages and benefits declined in nearly allindustries and occupations – even among nonunionized workers. This included police, firefighters, educators and health care workers, as well as administrative, retail and sales occupations. If your job is somewhere on that list, you have reason to be concerned about the passage of Prop A.
Furthermore, the Missouri Budget Project estimates that 76,125 Missouri workers (union and nonunion) would lose employer-sponsored health insurance. If you depend on your employer to help with your health insurance coverage, you have reason to be concerned about Prop A.
Lower wages mean less tax revenue and cuts to public services that we all benefit from, and that working families and businesses depend on to thrive, including infrastructure, education and workforce training. These services also are crucial criteria for business relocation decision-makers. There also are cuts to programs that support those low-wage workers and their families already struggling to meet basic needs, like child care, housing and food. And strained state budgets often mean cuts to education and training programs that provide workers opportunities for advancement.
Studies do show, however, that laws like Prop A are good for some. Many are surprised to discover that CEOs in the United States make 361 times the average American worker pay. Prop A will widen that gap between corporate CEOs and the average hard-working Missourian. The wage gap will be even worse for women and workers of color. It’s really no wonder that corporate leaders strongly support Prop A and not everyday workers.
In the end, it’s clear that Prop A is just plain bad for working families and small businesses in Missouri. On Aug. 7, vote no on Proposition A.
David Derossett is an associate professor of sociology at Drury University whose research includes analysis of inequality, globalization and urban development. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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