We Are Ohio recently published an infographic of AFL-CIO talking points from 2002, presenting decade-old union spin against workplace freedom as current facts. The infographic, which contains four claims and lists no source, is easily debunked with public records and an understanding of what “right to work” means.
Working America, AFL-CIO’s national community organizing arm, shared a rough version of the same talking points on its Facebook page on December 3, 2012. The Ohio Education Association – We Are Ohio’s largest donor – posted Working America’s infographic within hours, and We Are Ohio posted the Working America graphic the next day.
Working America listed an AFL-CIO document titled “The Truth About Right to Work for Less” as the source for its claims. All four items in We Are Ohio’s infographic are from the AFL-CIO document, which cited 2001 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, 2001 U.S. Census Bureau data, and an April 2002 AFL-CIO study.
Rather than equip its followers with current data specific to Ohio as a casual observer might expect a “citizen-driven, community-based, bipartisan coalition” called “We Are Ohio” to do, the union campaign committee applied a fresh coat of paint to AFL-CIO’s outdated talking points.
The version shown above was published on We Are Ohio’s website and shared via its Facebook page on December 7.
Union Talking Point 1: Wages
We Are Ohio lies by insisting wages are far greater in forced-unionism states than in workplace freedom states.
Based on 2011 data readily available from BLS, 6 of 22 workplace freedom states had higher average wages than Ohio last year. Of the workplace freedom states with a lower average wage than Ohio, 4 trailed Ohio by less than $1,000 per year – and 5 will surpass Ohio’s average wage by 2021 if current trends persist.
We Are Ohio claims the average wage in workplace freedom states is $5,333 per year less than the average wage in “free bargaining states.” Keep in mind, “free bargaining” is a union euphemism for forced unionism. In what We Are Ohio describes as “free bargaining” states, workers can be forced to pay a union boss as a condition of employment.
Not only is We Are Ohio using a number that’s a decade old, it’s a national average inflated by wages in California, New York, and other forced-union states with astronomically high cost of living.
A recent Media Trackers analysis of BLS data addressed wages in Ohio and Ohio’s forced-unionism neighbors versus workplace freedom states. Ohio and neighboring states are highlighted in the table below.
As of 2011, average wages in workplace freedom states Virginia, Texas, Georgia, Arizona, Wyoming, and Nevada were greater than the average wage in Ohio.
If wage trends from 2001-2011 continue, by 2021 Ohios average wage will also be less than the average wages in Tennessee, Louisiana, Florida, North Dakota, and Alabama.
Union Talking Point 2: Poverty
We Are Ohio lies in an effort to pin high poverty rates on workplace freedom. In reality, forced-unionism Ohio and Michigan both had higher poverty rates than 10 of 22 workplace freedom states in 2011.
We Are Ohio claims the poverty rate in workplace freedom states is 12.5 percent, while the poverty rate in “free bargaining” states is 10.2 percent.
According to estimates from the Census Bureau, in 2011 Ohio’s poverty rate was 15.1 percent and Michigan’s poverty rate was 15 percent. At 12.6 percent, Pennsylvania had the lowest poverty rate of any of Ohio’s forced-unionism neighbors.
Workplace freedom states Virginia, Utah, Wyoming, Iowa, Nebraska, and North Dakota all had lower poverty rates than Ohio or any of Ohio’s neighboring forced-unionism states.
Additionally, workplace freedom states Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, and Florida had lower poverty rates than both Ohio and Michigan. Poverty rates in Nevada, Alabama, and North Carolina were higher, but within 0.5 percent of Ohio’s.
Only Louisiana, South Carolina, Arkansas, and Georgia had higher poverty rates than West Virginia, another forced-unionism state neighboring Ohio.
Naturally, We Are Ohio does not address the fact that Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania all had lower job creation rates than every workplace freedom state from 1991-2011.
Union Talking Point 3: Health Benefits
We Are Ohio lies by using another decade-old national average to show workplace freedom results in a lack of health insurance. In 2011, 8 of 22 workplace freedom states had a smaller percentage of uninsured residents than Ohio did.
We Are Ohio claims that compared to forced-unionism states, 21 percent fewer residents of workplace freedom states are covered by health insurance.
Based on Census Bureau estimates, 13.7 percent of Ohioans were uninsured in 2011. A higher percentage of residents had health insurance in workplace freedom states Kansas, Virginia, Tennessee, South Dakota, Alabama, Nebraska, Iowa, and North Dakota.
Less than 17 percent of the residents of workplace freedom states Utah, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Idaho lacked health insurance in 2011.
Again, We Are Ohio asserts a cause-and-effect relationship without presenting any evidence such a relationship exists.
Union Talking Point 4: Workplace Freedom Kills
We Are Ohio’s fourth talking point contains both a deceptive statistic and a flagrant lie about its cause. Workplace fatality rates vary dramatically by industry, and each state’s workforce is distributed differently across many industries – but most importantly, We Are Ohio’s infographic pushes the lie that “unions can’t speak up on behalf of workers” in workplace freedom states.
We Are Ohio claims there are 51 percent more workplace fatalities in workplace freedom states than in forced-unionism states, and blames the difference on granting workers the freedom to choose whether to pay a union boss.
Preliminary BLS data for 2011 show that workplace freedom states Georgia and Arizona had lower workplace fatality rates than Ohio. Based on December 2011 seasonally adjusted employment totals from BLS, Ohio’s workplace fatality rate was 3 per 100,000 workers, lower than any of Ohio’s forced-unionism neighbors.
Workplace freedom states Alabama, North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, Utah, and Florida had workplace fatality rates higher than Ohio’s but less than 4 per 100,000 workers. Texas, Nebraska, South Carolina, and Tennessee had workplace fatality rates of less than 4.5 per 100,000 workers.
Forced-unionism Kentucky had a rate of 4.77 per 100,000, while forced-unionism West Virginia had a rate of 5.65 per 100,000.
Workplace freedom laws do nothing to stop workers from speaking up about safety concerns and do nothing to prevent workers from joining a union. We Are Ohio is lying to defend the power of union bosses, which is what We Are Ohio was created to do.