Author

Todd McKeever

Date of Award

12-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Michael T. Korns

Second Advisor

Christian A. Vaccaro

Third Advisor

David B. Yerger

Abstract

This qualitative study seeks to better understand how union member’s perceptions of wages, benefits, and working conditions differ from those living and working in a Right-to-Work state and those in a Non-Right-to-Work state. Union workers from the mechanical construction industry in the Right-to-Work states of Nebraska, Nevada, and Texas, the Non-Right-to-Work states of Colorado, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and the recently Right-to-Work transitioned stated of West Virginia provide the data and setting for this study. One-on-one semi-structured interviews with Business Managers of United Association of Plumbers and Pipe-Fitters unions located within these seven states, along with focus group sessions with union members in each state, were conducted over a four-month period.

The research identified the following themes through study participant responses; Wage Satisfaction and Benefits, Employee and Employer Relationship: Worker Appreciation and Feedback, Work Environment and Job Site Safety, Anti-Union Sentiment, Implication of Right-to-Work, Being a Union Member in a Right-to-Work State, and Concerns for the Future.

Study findings confirm that union workers in Right-to-Work states perceive their wage as low, but their perception is influenced by how successful they think company owners are through the purchases they make, such as nice homes, vehicles, and vacations. Participants in Right-to-Work states experience a high degree of anti-union sentiment on job-sites and among the general public. A finding of particular interest is union workers in Right-to-Work states have formed a sincere appreciation for being a union member knowing how difficult it is because of the legislation being in place and the anti-union sentiment within their state.

This study is applicable to any union within the United States and can provide insight to employers in regards to how union workers perceive their workplace. State government representatives, that are considering passing Right-to-Work legislation, can gain insight to how the legislation may impact their state’s employers and workers.

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