Construction industry is safer in states without 'right-to-work' laws, University of Michigan study finds
States with "right-to-work" laws, which make it harder for unions to organize, have higher rates of death among construction workers than states that preserve union rights, according to a study released today by the University of Michigan.
The study — conducted by Roland Zullo of the U-M Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy — found that fatality rates are higher among construction workers in states with "right to work" laws.
Death rates are 34 percent to 40 percent higher for construction workers in right-to-work states, depending on how those workers are classified, U-M said in a news release.
The study did not conclude that right-to-work laws caused the higher fatality rates, suggesting that the rates might be higher because of bad weather or dangerous geographic terrain in those states.
But the study does suggest that states with higher rates of unionization might be safer for workers because unions often push for safety training and accident prevention.
"Unions appear to have a positive role in reducing construction industry and occupation fatalities, but only in states without right-to-work laws," Zullo said in a statement.
The study's release comes as the national debate over right-to-work laws continues. In Lansing, at least one bill has been introduced to make Michigan a right-to-work state, according to Michigan Radio, though Gov. Rick Snyder has said the issue is not on his agenda.
"Several states are currently considering adopting right-to-work laws, but passing these laws may have the unintended consequence of elevating workplace fatalities," Zullo said. "States attempting to reduce worker fatalities should consider encouraging trade union growth and repealing right-to-work laws."