Martin Luther King, speaking about right-to-work laws in 1961:
"In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as 'right to work.' It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone… Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote."
Economists, discussing right to work laws today:
When right-to-work laws were first implemented decades ago, those first states benefited with increased employment because companies and jobs migrated there in search of the lower wages, Belman said. But that impact has faded over time, as more states have joined those ranks and as unions have agreed to concessionary demands from employers, he said.
The data on wages tell a fairly clear story: Of the top 10 states in per capita income in 2011, seven were not right-to work states. Of the bottom 10 states, seven were right-to-work.
"There is a lot of evidence that wages and benefits are lower in right-to-work states," Belman said. "There's a redistribution of wages and benefits toward owners' capital."
Timothy Bartik, senior economist with the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research in Kalamazoo, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center, agreed.
"I think the relevant issue that people should be asking themselves about right to work is, what impact does it have on employment and what impact does it have on wages? And both of those questions are important," he said.