Tag: Unions

Right to Work

Is that FTW?

Governor Walker signed “right to work” (RTW) legislation earlier this week, which it is fair to say has led to mixed reactions among the electorate.   A Wall Street Journal piece touts the “right to work advantage,” whereas Slate.com teaser says “It has never been more painful and humiliating to be a Wisconsin Democrat.”  Owie.

(Curiously, the sign on the table in the photo is “Freedom to Work,” rather than “Right to Work”).

Right to Work laws generally allow employees to work in unionized workplaces without paying union dues. In principle, the free-rider problems caused by the elimation of compulsory union dues mitigates union bargaining power, hence lowering wages (ceteris paribus), and increasing employment.  Clearly, then, this legislation potentially has fundamental implications for employment, wages, output, and probably a whole lot of other stuff.  How is one to sort all this out?

Fortunately, Ed Dolan at EconoMonitor has taken it upon himself to sort it out for us.  He begins by providing a nice review of the history and basic logic of RTW legislation. Following that, he reaches the conclusion that, well, it’s complicated:

The bottom line is that the economic effects of RTW laws are not nearly as clear-cut as their advocates and opponents make them out to be. Correlations of RTW laws with wages and employment are economically small even when they are statistically significant. Most problematic of all is the question of causation—does RTW cause observed differences between states, or do pre-existing differences cause the passage of RTW laws?

It’s almost too bad that the effects are so benign, as RTW is a genuine political dynamo. In response to Walker’s signature, President Obama took to his Twitter feed today to “blast” the Wisconsin legislation and encourage the 25 states that don’t have RTW legislation to keep it that way.


Whoa, Part II

MADISON, Wis., Feb 19 (Reuters) – Supporters of legislation to reduce public employee union bargaining power and benefits in Wisconsin were far outnumbered by opponents on Saturday, as the two sides shouted competing slogans but did not clash.

Tens of thousands have demonstrated throughout the week against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s proposed legislation, which supporters say is needed to bring spending under control and opponents contend would break the back of state worker unions.

Wisconsin is the flashpoint for a U.S. struggle over efforts to roll back pay, benefits and bargaining rights of government workers. If the majority Republicans prevail, other states could be emboldened to take on the powerful unions.

Megan McCardle at The Atlantic weighs in with a balanced, if not entirely fair piece (fairness, I suppose, depends on where you are in the debate).

For those of you who haven’t been following this, the Republican-led government is set to put in place a new budget that puts the brunt of a “tax increase” on public sector employees to balance the Wisconsin state budget.  Currently, Republicans control the governorship as well as both chambers — the House 57-38 and the Senate 19-14.  Because 20 Senators are necessary for that chamber to vote, the 14 Democrats have effectively “filibustered” by fleeing the state, prolonging the inevitable I suppose.

In the meantime, the delay has allowed for the mass demonstrations down in Madison this week and this weekend. 

UPDATE: Schumpeter Roundtable member, Cecily,  has reported back from the rallies, and informs us that UW business students have never heard of Schumpeter.  Huh?!?

Ms. Cecily has rallied the troops and is taking two buses to Mad town.  She is planning to convene at the Chapel Tuesday at 8 a.m.   If you are interested in heading to Madison, you should check in there tomorrow.