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The Journal of the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at The George Washington University


Right-to-work (RTW) laws do not require workers to pay dues in order to become a member of a labor union as a condition of employment. State governments, particularly those in the Midwest and South, have introduced RTW laws to attract businesses and industrialize local economies. Consequently, the laws increase competition among nonunion workers, driving wages down. The laws also weaken labor unions’ ability to bargain for wage increases, especially as unions are strained to bargain for workers that are not dues-paying members. After implementation, RTW laws generally increase economic inequality. However, the local socioeconomic conditions, such as racial and gender diversity in the labor force, can influence the demand for union representation and may impact the degree to which economic inequality will change. There have been repeated attempts to expand RTW to the national level, but these attempts would risk magnifying wage disparities, undermining unions’ bargaining power, and exacerbating socioeconomic inequalities.

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