U-M study finds that death rates are 34-40% higher for construction workers in right-to-work states

If you ever find yourself wondering why it is that Republicans have it in for folks associated with institutions of higher learning, look no further than this recent study released by Roland Zullo of the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy. Here’s a clip from the study’s executive summary.

…(T)he interaction between right-to-work laws and unionization suggests that unions are less effective at protecting member safety in right-to-work states. In non- RTW states, industry fatalities are 0.23 per thousand with low levels of union density, but this estimate drops to 0.16 with high union density. By comparison, the industry fatality rates in RTW states are relatively flat regardless of the level of industry unionization: with low levels of unions, the fatality rate is 0.20; with high levels the rate is 0.18.

The interaction effect is more pronounced for occupation fatalities. In non-RTW states, the construction occupation fatality rates with low union density are about double the fatality rate with high union density: estimated at 0.22 per thousand compared with 0.11 per thousand. In RTW states, the range is between 0.18 and 0.14 per thousand for low and high unionization densities, respectively.

These findings support our hypothesis is that RTW laws result in the underfunding of union safety training or accident prevention activities. Additional research is encouraged to refine and validate these findings…

The study was brought up on AnnArbor.com today and reporter who wrote the piece was quick to point out that there could be other explanations for the increased fatality rate. “The study did not conclude,” he said, “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.”

He’s right, of course, but I think it’s highly unlikely that it’s just coincidence.

But, maybe workplaces are just slipperier in right-to-work states.

Oh, and this would probably be a good point at which to mention that there’s a budding movement afoot to see Michigan become a right-to-work state. So, if you’re in the building trades, and you haven’t moved yet, you might want to consider it.

It’s also worth noting that Professor Zullo, whom I quoted above, is one of the individuals singled out in the FOIA campaign recently launched by the Mackinac Center. Here, with more on that, is a clip from Talking Points Memo:

A free enterprise think tank in Michigan — backed by some of the biggest names in national conservative donor circles — has made a broad public records request to at least three in-state universities with departments that specialize in the study of labor relations, seeking all their emails regarding the union battle in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, TPM has learned.

According to professors subject to the request, filed under Michigan’s version of the Freedom Of Information Act, the request is extremely rare in academic circles. An employee at the think tank requesting the emails tells TPM they’re part of an investigation into what labor studies professors at state schools in Michigan are saying about the situation in Madison, Wisc., the epicenter of the clashes between unions and Republican-run state governments across the Midwest.

One professor subject to the FOIA described it as anti-union advocates “going after folks they don’t agree with”…

And here’s what Rachel Maddow has to say about the FOIA campaign, in which she is personally named.

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  1. Knox
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    It could also be that people in right to work states are dumber. Maybe they hit themselves in the head with hammers.

  2. Glen S.
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 7:09 am | Permalink

    Language is important, and I so think it worth noting that the term “Right-to-Work,” is another great example of the right-wing re-branding unpopular ideas to make them seem more palatable/less threatening (think “Peacekeeper Missile,” or “Trickle-down Economics”) After all, who doesn’t want people to have a “right” to work?

    However, the truth is that people in non-“RTW” states also have a right to work — they just have a right to do it more safely, and while earning higher wages and better benefits.

    The right-wing has been exceptionally skilled at using this kind re-branding for decades, for example referring to government retirement insurance programs such as Social Security as “entitlements,” (i.e. welfare), or changing the way people speak (and even think) about inheritance taxes on the wealthy, by referring to it as a “Death Tax.”

    My point is that we have to be careful not to fall into their rhetorical trap. In this case, rather than refer to to this idea as “Right-to-Work,” we should use a term that’s more accurate and truthful, for instance: “The Right to Work in More Dangerous Conditions for Less Money and Fewer Benefits.”

  3. Edward
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Let’s call them “Right to Die in an Unsafe Workplace” states.

  4. TeacherPatti
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Glen S. is so right re: language. It’s like “pro life”…really? Personally, I say “in favor of legalized abortion” and “opposed to legalized abortion” which inevitably draws glazed looks from folks but what-evah. My union calls this right to work bullshit “right to work for less” which I think is more accurate.

  5. Meta
    Posted April 8, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    From AnnArbor.com:

    Wayne State University has taken down parts of its Labor Studies Center website following Freedom of Information Act inquiries from a Midland-based think tank, according to a report today from the national political news site Talking Points Memo.

    Lawyers are reviewing whether the parts of the site violate rules against using state resources in political advocacy.

    The Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy filed FOIA requests last month seeking emails from labor studies departments at public universities in Michigan, including the University of Michigan, that mention collective bargaining in Wisconsin, where workers have protested Gov. Scott Walker’s attempts to cut benefits. The FOIA also sought emails containing the terms “Scott Walker,” “Wisconsin,” “Madison” or “Maddow,” referring to MSNBC host Rachel Maddow.
    Since then, the center reported that it’s received death threats. It has called the FOIA of the emails routine.


  6. millwork virginia
    Posted April 13, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    We are installers of crown molding in Richmond Va. All of our employees are dead.

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