A Bill to Eliminate Right to Work Requirements

This legislation prohibits states from enacting right to work legislation. Right to work laws are designed to allows workers to be employed in a particular company without being required to join the union but receive the protection the union provided Most states subsequently modified these laws to require workers to only pay the portion of the membership fee that provided typical protections to the union, but not to pay any portions of fees that are used for lobbying. Right to work laws take things a step farther to go back to the world where employees don’t have to pay anything.

History of the Laws — From Jurist

During the colonial and revolutionary period of the US, most Americans practiced agriculture. The early US also had a substantial population of laborers, a group that included artisans, indentured servants and slaves. Many laborers resided in the major colonial cities of Philadelphia, New York and Boston, and at times these urban laborers organized against poor working conditions and low pay. The population of laborers in the US increasedduring the Industrial Revolution, as many Americans, including women and children, transitioned from agriculture to industrial jobs. Some unions existed by the start of the US Civil War in 1861, but by and large laborers remained unorganized.

The late 19th century, however, witnessed an increase in union activity. Early unions like the National Labor Union and the Knights of Labor emerged in the post-Civil War landscape but did not last long. On May 3, 1886, the Haymarket Affair turned public support against organized labor. After Chicago police fired into a group of striking laborers, an anarchist threw a stick of dynamite at the police and the explosion killed an officer. The incident did not spell doom for unions in America and Samuel Gompers helped the American Federation of Labor establish itself as one of the nation’s largest labor unions.

Union activity in the US continued to increase, and in July 1935, unions received greater political protection when President Franklin Roosevelt signed into law the National Labor Relations Act. According to Roosevelt, the Act protected “the right of self-organization of employees in industry for the purposes of collective bargaining.” It imposed a duty on employers to engage in collective bargaining with unions, and imposed a duty on workers to pay those negotiating unions under union security agreements. By 1947, however, some members of Congress proposed changes to the pro-union structure of the NLRA, and, over the veto of President Harry Truman, passed the Taft-Hartley Act. That Act amended parts of the NLRA, such as subjecting labor unions to claims of unfair practices and only allowing union shops in the absence of state law to the contrary.

Section 164 of the Taft-Hartley Act established the foundation for right-to-work laws by allowing states to prohibit union security agreements, or compulsory union membership. Within a year of the Taft-Hartley Act’s passage, 12 states passed [PDF] right-to-work laws. Several more followed suit throughout the 1950’s. As of December 2013, 24 states had enacted right-to-work laws. Michigan became the most recent state to pass a right-to-work law in December 2012. Michigan’s law covers both public and private sector employees. The law does not prohibit employees from becoming members of labor unions, and instead allows employees the right to choose whether to refrain from union activity. The law creates a “right-to-work” by prohibiting union activity from being a required condition of employment.


7 Strongest Pros and Cons of Right To Work (2015). If you only have time to read one article, read this one. It lays out the arguments in simple terms.

Pros and Cons of Right to Work (2018). In the current political climate, right-to-work laws aim to bar employers or unions from requiring payment of any union-related fees from non-union employees. Supporters of the laws argue that requiring payments inhibits economic growth and can make some companies or industries less attractive to prospective employees. They also feel that forcing workers to pay fees simply because they work in an industry or company with a strong union presence is an infringement on their freedom.

Opponents of right-to-work laws affirm that it’s unfair for non-union employees to reap the benefits of union activity without paying fees, while their fellow employees who belong to the union support that same activity with their union dues.

On a larger political level, it is argued that right-to-work laws diminish the influence and financial power of unions and therefore the unions can provide less support for political candidates and initiatives. Because unions typically support Democratic politicians, many believe that right-to-work laws (which are typically backed by Republicans) are aimed at weakening support for Democrats, particularly at the state level.
Congressional Research Service.  Right to Work Laws: Legislative Background and Empirical Research (2014) The recent data trends between RTW and union security states are relatively distinct, but, since it is difficult to determine the effect of a single variable on broader economic outcomes, the influence of RTW laws in these trends (if any) is unclear.

• Unionization rates in RTW states are less than half of what they are in union security states. It is ambiguous what portion of this difference is attributable to RTW laws, what portion is due to diverse preferences among states’ populations regarding unionization, and what portion is due to other factors.

• In the past decade, aggregate employment in RTW states has increased modestly while employment in union security states has declined. It is unclear if this growth is attributable to RTW, other pro-business policies (which tend to be concentrated in RTW states), or other factors.

• Wages are lower in RTW states than union security states. Historical research has suggested that RTW laws have little influence on these differences. More contemporary scholarship has come to diverse conclusions, depending on the researchers’ methodology.

Pro — Right to Work Laws Bad

‘Right-to-Work’ Laws Explained, Debunked and Demystified (2012). This article argues right to work laws are bad because they discourage people from joining unions and that unions are important to Democrats. It also argues there are no benefits to right to work laws.

Teen Vogue. What a Labor Union Is and How It Works (2018)Unions give workers the power to improve their workplaces, and have a long history of creating lasting, progressive changes, from the institution of the eight-hour workday to health and safety regulations. Maybe someone in your family — a parent, an aunt or uncle, a grandparent — is in a union, or you’ve seen people talking about the successful West Virginia wildcat teachers’ strike on Twitter. But the news can all get confusing, with all the talk of bargaining and contracts and fees, so we’re here to explain what unions are, how they work, and what the outcome of this case could mean…. People often use the term “right-to-work” in discussions (and arguments) about unions and the labor movement, and it’s been in the headlines a lot recently. First off, some say the phrase “right-to-work” is inherently misleadingly: As former president Barack Obama, whose presidency was extremely union-friendly, noted in a 2012 speech at the Daimler Detroit Diesel Plant, “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.” Right-to-work laws make it legal for workers at unionized shops to opt out of joining the union and paying union fees. However, they still benefit from the union’s collective bargaining agreement, without paying dues — thereby depriving the union of income and weakening their potential influence. Essentially, these so-called “free riders” take advantage of the benefits won for them by the union but do not contribute. These laws weaken unions’ power by draining resources, driving down wages, and lessening their ability to advocate for their members in terms of wages and workplace safety. As a result, states with right-to-work laws have higher employment-related fatalities than states with strong union membership. Right-to-work laws can suppress working class voter turnout, shift state-level public policy to the right, and have a heavy impact on electoral results. A new study cited by The Nation found that, on average, between 1980 and 2016, “right-to-work laws decreased Democratic presidential vote share by 3.5 percent.”

Are Unions Really Weaker in Right-to-Work States? (2019)

Right to Work Would Harm All Americans (2017)

Black workers in right-to-work (RTW) states tend to have lower wages than in Missouri and other non-RTW states (2018)

How So-Called “Right to Work” Laws Aim to Silence Working People (2017)

The Impact of “Right-to-Work” Laws on Labor Market Outcomes in Three Midwest States (2017)

Happy anniversary, right-to-work, but it’s time to go (2015)

The racist roots of ‘right to work’ laws (2012)

Why unions are so worried about right-to-work laws (2017)

Union Benefits Go Far Beyond the Workplace (2019)

Fresh Proof That Strong Unions Help Reduce Income Inequality (2018)

Con — Right to Work Laws Good

Washington Policy Center. Right-to-Work: What it is and how it works (2014) Key Findings 1. Studies show that states with right-to-work laws attract more new business than states without such laws and also typically have a better business climate than non-right-to-work states. 2. Once cost of living is accounted for, workers in right-to-work states enjoy higher real, spendable income than workers in non-right-to-work states. 3. Federal law does not require unions to represent non-members; unions are only required to represent every worker if they choose to invoke federal law giving them “exclusive bargaining representation.” 4. Union membership has been declining nationally for three decades. Public support for labor unions appears to be fading. 5. Right-to-work laws do not ban unions or prevent them from serving the interests of their members. Rather, right-to-work laws require unions to give workers a choice about financially supporting those efforts. 6. Recent decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn and Knox v. SEIU indicate the Court may be willing to overturn a previous decision (Abood) that requires government employees to pay union dues or agency fees, even if they do not want union representation. Such a ruling would likely lead to the same rights for private sector workers.

Washington Free Beacon. GOP Renews Push for Right to Work (2019). Wilson called right to work “crucial” to South Carolina’s economic development in recent years, pointing to the expansion of manufacturing employment, which has increased by 25 percent since 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Every worker should have the power to decide whether or not to negotiate for themselves with their employer,” Wilson said at a press conference. Twenty-seven states have already adopted right to work legislation, meaning that the federal law would only affect residents in 23 states, many of which are controlled by Democrats. The National Labor Relations Act made clear that states are within their rights to adopt right to work policies, but Wilson said Congress erred when it made monopoly unionism the default position, rather than creating an opt-in system.

Per Capita Income Higher in Right To Work States (2017)

Why Every State Should Guarantee the Right to Work (2014)

An Issue With Warren’s Bill To Repeal Right-To-Work Laws (2017)

Labor unions push to reverse decades of legal reforms (2019)

Why National Right to Work Act Is Necessary (2019)

Right to work important for individual rights (2015)

What Unions Do: How Labor Unions Affect Jobs and the Economy (2009)

A dollar buys more in right-to-work states (2017)

The myth of “free riders” in right-to-work states (2016)

Right to Work States Hold 2:1 Job-Growth Advantage Over Forced Union States (2018)

Right to Work Laws Bad — Evidence

Right to work laws do not benefit the economy

Rick Unger, December 11, 2012, https://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/12/11/right-to-work-laws-explained-debunked-demystified/#29962b28480b, 355,215 viewsDec 11, 2012, 02:37pm

‘Right-to-Work’ Laws Explained, Debunked And Demystified And not everyone agrees that the laws actually do bring business into a state. According to a report written by economists Gordon Lafer and Sylvia Allegretto reviewing the results of Oklahoma’s right-to-work laws, and published by the Economic Policy Institute, right-to-work laws do not always work out quite so well. Abby Rapoport, writing in the American Spectator, describes the results of the Lafer/Allegretto study— “Rather than increasing job opportunities, the state saw companies relocate out of Oklahoma. In high-tech industries and those service industries “dependent on consumer spending in the local economy” the laws appear to have actually damaged growth. At the end of the decade, 50,000 fewer Oklahoma residents had jobs in manufacturing. Perhaps most damning, Lafer and Allegretto could find no evidence that the legislation had a positive impact on employment rates. “It will not bring new jobs in, but it will result in less wages and benefits for everybody including non-union workers,” says Lafer.”

Right to work laws encourage freeloading – people can get the benefits of union membership without paying

Rick Unger, December 11, 2012, https://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/12/11/right-to-work-laws-explained-debunked-demystified/#29962b28480b, 355,215 viewsDec 11, 2012, 02:37pm

Still, there may be a credible argument to be made with regard to ‘right-to-work’ presenting greater opportunities for economic growth in the states that adopt the laws as both sides of the argument are likely to agree that these laws have the effect of weakening unions—and weakened unions tend to be good for business…or at least the owner of the business. By giving non-union members a “free ride”—while preserving for them all the benefits of collective bargaining and union membership—the likelihood that employees will chose not to become members of a union are greatly increased. After all, why pay union dues when you can get all the benefits of representation for free? It would be like telling someone in need of a lawyer that they can elect to have qualified representation handling their case at a rate of $200 an hour or they can choose to have that same lawyer handle their matter for free. What’s more, if the client feels the lawyer has failed to deliver her best work because she was doing it for no payment, that client can sue for malpractice—even though the client paid nothing for the services provided. The inevitable result of gaining fewer members, and less money through dues and agency fees to support union collective bargaining activities, is the strengthening of the employer’s hand in collective bargaining negotiations—a trend that obviously bodes well for business profitability if less encouraging for workers who are likely to suffer lower wages as a result.

Right to work laws mean less lobbying and political support for union lobbying, undermining Democrats

Rick Unger, December 11, 2012, https://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/12/11/right-to-work-laws-explained-debunked-demystified/#29962b28480b, 355,215 viewsDec 11, 2012, 02:37pm

At a time when Citizens United has fully unleashed the power of corporations to add hundreds of millions to the campaign coffers of candidates that, as we have recently seen, tend to be Republican, the American unions continue to be the largest contributor to Democratic candidates. By creating laws that are guaranteed to put a strain on union treasuries, states can virtually assure that Democratic candidates, at all levels, are likely to feel the pinch.