Construction Workers Are the Major Victims of Right-to-Work Laws

Frank Manzo IV is the Policy Director of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI). Visit ILEPI at www.illinoisepi.org or follow ILEPI on Twitter @illinoisEPI.


“Right-to-work” laws have the largest negative impacts on construction workers, according to a new ILEPI Economic Commentary (PDF). By weakening labor unions, right-to-work laws reduce investment in worker training and safety programs in the industry. Consequently, construction workers in right-to-work states are less productive and more prone to fatal workplace injuries – undesirable outcomes from both an economic and a moral perspective. Right-to-work laws also significantly reduce wages for construction workers.

The study finds that “right-to-work” laws:

  • reduce the average hourly wage of laborers by 24.3 percent;
  • reduce the average hourly wage of carpenters by 23.7 percent;
  • reduce the average hourly wage of electricians by 18.6 percent;
  • reduce the average hourly wage of plumbers by 23.8 percent;
  • reduce the average hourly wage of operating engineers by 23.9 percent; and
  • even reduce the average hourly wage of first-line supervisors by 13.1 percent.

The results are consistent with previous research. Right-to-work laws reduce worker wages while simultaneously increasing income inequality in construction.


The full report can be found at this link: http://illinoisepi.org/countrysidenonprofit/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Economic-Commentary-RTW-and-Construction.pdf.

For more on the negative impacts of right-to-work laws, please see: http://illinoisepi.org/countrysidenonprofit/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Economic-Impacts-of-Right-to-Work.pdf.

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