News Story

Right-to-Work States Have Lower Workplace Injury Rates

Big Labor’s fatal error on state employee afflictions

It’s a repeated and deceptive talking point from Big Labor that becoming a right-to-work state will result in lower workplace safety. This is a convenient objection, but not supported by the data.

Consider Oklahoma, which became a right-to-work state in 2001. From 2000 to 2010 its workplace injury rate plummeted, decreasing their average workplace injuries and illnesses by nearly 40 percent. Oklahoma's injury and illness rate is less than in Michigan. Overall, right-to-work states have a slightly lower incidence of workplace injuries.

It's true that right-to-work states have a greater incidence of fatal workplace injuries, but the very dangerous occupations are concentrated in just a couple of industries and in occupations like farming, fishing and forestry regardless of whether the state has a right-to-work law.

Unions can negotiate over working conditions, but it's unlikely that this has a major influence over workplace safety, especially when there's the Occupational Safety and Health Act, the legal system and better business management. Certainly these have a greater influence over the safety of workplaces than whether unions are able to force members to pay dues or agency fees.

Besides, right-to-work, which prevents a union from getting an employee fired for refusing to financially support a union, does not affect a union's ability to negotiate over working conditions.

Workplaces in America are safer than they’ve ever been. This, however, is not because of the union’s power to collect forced dues and agency fees. 

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.