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  • Commentary posted June 9, 2016 by James Sherk Simple - and Wrong - Solutions in Search for Higher Wages

    Why are so many workers struggling today? Some union-backed analysts have a straightforward answer: "Their employers are cheating them." They claim businesses no longer compensate workers for their productivity. This argument demonstrates H.L. Mencken's point that "for every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." Competition forces…

  • Backgrounder posted May 31, 2016 by James Sherk Labor’s Share of Income Little Changed Since 1948

    Many commentators claim that labor’s share of income has fallen to historic lows. They claim that a combination of automation, decreased unionization, and free trade reduced workers’ ability to command higher pay. However, changes in how the government measures self-employment income and faster depreciation explain—entirely—the apparent decline in labor’s share. Neither…

  • Backgrounder posted May 31, 2016 by James Sherk Workers’ Compensation: Growing Along with Productivity

    Increasing living standards depends on increasing worker productivity. Competition causes firms to tie wages closely to employees’ productivity. Since 1973, the average private-sector employee’s productivity has increased by 81 percent, while their average compensation has increased by 78 percent. Some analysts have produced charts purporting to show that productivity has…

  • Issue Brief posted May 19, 2016 by James Sherk California’s Unprecedented Minimum Wage Increase Will Hurt Vulnerable Workers

    The California legislature has passed an unprecedented statewide minimum wage hike. By 2023, the minimum wage across California will be $15 an hour. Adjusted for inflation, this will be higher than any statewide minimum wage in U.S. history. It will also be higher than the national minimum wage of any country in the world. The real increase will be even greater in inland…

  • Special Report posted April 11, 2016 by Geoffrey Lawrence, James Sherk, Kevin D. Dayaratna, Ph.D., Cameron Belt How Government Unions Affect State and Local Finances: An Empirical 50-State Review

    Executive Summary Over the past half-century, the American union movement has moved into government. Despite highly publicized efforts to curtail collective bargaining powers of government unions in Ohio and Wisconsin, almost all changes to government collective bargaining statutes over the past 20 years have increased, not decreased, the powers enjoyed by government…

  • Commentary posted January 28, 2016 by James Sherk Why West Virginia Is Likely to Become the 26th Right-To-Work State

    West Virginia seems almost certain to soon become American’s 26th right-to-work state. Republicans took control of both houses of the West Virginia legislature in 2014. State legislative leaders have made passing right-to-work this year a top priority. It only takes a simple majority to override a veto in West Virginia, so final passage seems assured. The state senate…

  • Commentary posted January 12, 2016 by James Sherk To Form a More (Responsive) Union

    To understand why Rebecca Friedrichs, a school teacher in California's Orange County, will soon have her case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, you have to understand something about her union: It would not even survey its members. Friedrich's school district started losing money in the recession. It had to either lay off teachers or trim everyone's pay. Friedrichs has…

  • Backgrounder posted December 4, 2015 by Paul Winfree, Daren Bakst, Rachel Sheffield, James Phillips, Diane Katz, Nicolas Loris, Katie Tubb, Roger Severino, Sarah Torre, Lindsey Burke, James Sherk, Robert E. Moffit, Ph.D., Brett D. Schaefer, David Inserra Important Policy Riders for the FY 2016 Appropriations Bills

    The Constitution unequivocally grants Congress the exclusive power to appropriate funds for the “necessary and proper” operations of government.[1] James Madison wrote in The Federalist No. 58 that providing budgetary powers to Congress was a critical element in maintaining individual rights: “The power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and…

  • Commentary posted November 17, 2015 by James Sherk Will West Virginia Embrace Right-to-Work Legislation?

    West Virginia may well become the next right-to-work state. Bill Cole — the state-Senate president and probable GOP gubernatorial nominee — has made passing right-to-work legislation a top priority. However, Cole didn’t bring it up for hearings or a vote in this year’s legislative session. At the time, liberal groups celebrated the fact that right-to-work was bumped from…

  • Backgrounder posted November 9, 2015 by James Sherk Union Membership and Compulsory Dues Do Not Increase Workers’ Overall Living Standards

    Unions do not provide general economic benefits to non-union workers that could justify forcing non-union workers to pay union dues. The National Labor Relations Act provides that a majority of workers in a bargaining unit of a company may elect to have a union represent all the unit’s workers, whether they are members of the union or not, in negotiations with company…

  • Commentary posted September 22, 2015 by James Sherk Right-to-Work Laws Don't Lower Private-Sector Pay

    Currently, 25 U.S. states have right-to-work (RTW) laws. These laws prohibit union security agreements, allowing employees to decide for themselves whether or not they will join and financially support a union. Historically, unions argue that RTW laws reduce employee wages by 3 percent, but a recent Heritage Foundation study found no basis for these claims when cost of…

  • Issue Brief posted September 1, 2015 by James Sherk Right-to-Work Laws Don’t Lower Private-Sector Pay

    Advocates for compulsory unionization have argued that right-to-work (RTW) laws reduce wages by 3 percent. A forthcoming Heritage Foundation Backgrounder finds instead that, when living costs are fully taken into account, private-sector workers in RTW states enjoy real wages equivalent to those in non-RTW states. Policymakers considering RTW legislation may do so…

  • Commentary posted August 19, 2015 by James Sherk Union members have a choice, and they don't even know it

    What keeps business owners up at night? The fear of losing customers. Companies spend billions to create the next big thing and then billions more on advertising to persuade consumers to buy it. Do labor unions have that same worry? A new poll by National Employee Freedom Week, a coalition of 99 nonprofit organizations in 42 states, suggests many do not. The poll asked…

  • Testimony posted July 24, 2015 by James Sherk How the Common Construction Wage Affects the Cost and Quality of Construction Projects

    How the Common Construction Wage Affects the Cost and Quality of Construction Projects Testimony before Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee Indiana State Senate March 31, 2015 James Sherk Research Fellow in Labor Economics The Heritage Foundation Chairman Hershman and Members of the Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify. My name is…

  • Backgrounder posted July 20, 2015 by James Sherk, Lindsey Burke Automation and Technology Increase Living Standards

    Many Americans worry that automation will significantly reduce the need for human employees. Historical experience should help to alleviate many of these concerns. Technological advances have eliminated specific jobs and reduced prices, but the historical record shows this has left consumers with more money to spend elsewhere, increasing the demand for human labor in…