A new study could fuel conflict in Missouri’s upcoming election for governor.

Jake Rosenfeld Photo courtesy of Washington University

Jake Rosenfeld Photo courtesy of Washington University

The future of labor unions hangs in the balance in the battle between Republican Eric Greitens and Democrat Chris Koster.

If Greitens wins, Missouri will likely become a right to work state.  If Koster prevails, it won’t.

Jake Rosenfeld of Washington University in St. Louis is behind the study, which contends the decline of unions effectively lowers wages for non-union workers.

“And that adds up to over $100 billion a year” said Rosenfeld.  “It adds up to $50 to $60 per week in lost wages for non-union workers as a result of union decline.”

Rosenfeld says right to work laws definitely hurt organized labor.  Republican state Senator Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis claims Bureau of Labor statistics back his claim that those same laws stimulate job growth.  “In the decade that ended in 2013, job growth has been 8.6 percent in “freedom to work” states, and only 3.7 percent in states that do not have right to work.”  (Onder uses the word “freedom” in place of “right” when referring to such laws.)

Onder also claims wages have climbed at a faster pace in right to work states.  Rosenfeld points to Alabama and Mississippi, which are long standing right to work states that also lead the country in poverty rates and low job growth.

He further claims neighboring Arkansas, as well as Tennessee, haven’t seen much growth since adopting right to work laws.  “They have lower average wages than Missouri” said Rosenfeld.  “They have, kind of, mixed unemployment pictures, not dramatically higher, not dramatically lower.  And they have slightly higher poverty rates.”

Unlike people directly associated with organized labor, Rosenfeld doesn’t think work laws destroy to labor unions.  He points out Nevada is a right to work state which also has very strong unions supporting the service trade in Las Vegas.

Rosenfeld divides states into those taking the high road and those taking the low road in approaching worker conditions.

He says states on the high road seek to reward businesses that treat their employees well, and may adopt legislation that makes it easier to organize.

Rosefeld identifies states taking the low road as southern neighbors to Missouri.  “These states are trying to cut back on employee regulation, keep the minimum wage at below poverty level, and make it more difficult to organize a labor union.”

It’s not known if labor groups will use Rosenfeld’s study(“Union decline lowers wages of nonunion workers: The overlooked reason why wages are stuck and inequality is growing) in the fight for the governor’s seat.  It is expected that groups on both side of the labor will spend big money the race