This post originally appeared at Medium.
I spent 36 years working at the Bridgestone Tire plant in Oklahoma City. The work was hard but rewarding. It afforded me the opportunity to provide for my family, always ensure there was enough food at the table and that my kids were afforded every modest opportunity to grow up in a household that was stable, secure and free from worry. That all changed suddenly in 2006, five years after Oklahoma passed a so-called “right to work” law that was billed by politicians as a job creator. For the 1,400 men and women who worked at the plant, right to work didn’t work as advertised. Not only did the plant close, but the effects of the closing and the chilling effect that right to work has on a state’s economy were felt by everyone.
What is right to work anyway?
Right to work is a dangerous and divisive bill that politicians use to intervene in the rights of people like you and me to negotiate with our bosses as we see fit. The bill is championed by big companies, the same ones that ship jobs overseas, by taking away our rights to organize and negotiate for fair paychecks and safety standards on the job. These companies argue that this will make states more competitive and attract jobs, but, in reality, that doesn’t happen.
So then, what does happen?
All evidence, actual facts, from non-partisan sources show that right to work doesn’t create jobs and actually has a negative effect on states’ economies. We saw this in Oklahoma. In the wake of right to work, the number of new companies relocating to our state has decreased by one-third and the number of manufacturing jobs has also fallen by a third. That’s according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics. That same thing is happening in other right to work states as well, seven of the top 10 states with the highest unemployment are right to work states. Worse, the jobs that stay in right to work states are lower paid. On average, workers in right to work states make about $5,000 less a year than in other states.