What is Right to Work Law?
Right to work laws are statutes which are currently enforced in twenty-two states in the U.S. These states, which are mostly located in the western or southern portion of the United States, allow provisions of the federal Taft-Hartley Act, which impede the formation of agreements between employers and labor unions that make payment of union dues, membership or fees a matter of employment, either before or after hiring, which requires the workplace to temporarily be a closed shop (a form of union security agreement where the employer agrees to hire union members and the working employees must stay members of the union at all times in order to remain employed).
The right to work is a concept which states that all human beings have the right to work or engage in an employment practice. The right to work states no person may not be prevented from attempting to seek and maintain said forms of employment. The right to work is affirmed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is formally recognized in international human rights law because of its inclusion in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
What is the Taft-Hartley Act?
Preceding to the passing of the Taft-Hartley Act, employers and unions covered by the National Labor Relations Act could, by law, agree to a closed shop, where employees must hold membership in the union as a condition of their employment. Prior to the passing of the legislation, an employee who no longer maintained membership in the union could be fired even if the individual did not violate any rules expressed in their employment contract or instituted by their employer.
The Taft-Hartley legislation outlawed the institution of a closed shop policy. Moreover, the legislation outlawed the union shop rule, which required all new employees of an organization to join the attached union after they are hired. Because of these provisions, the Taft-Hartley Act affirmed that it is illegal for any employer to force employees to join the attached union. The legislation also outlawed the agency shop, which stated that employees must pay the equivalent of union fees if they choose not to formally join the union.
The Taft-Hartley Act authorizes individual states in the U.S., but not local governments (municipalities or city governments) to outlaw the agency shop and union shop for workers employed in their jurisdiction. The legislation outlaws the open shop rule; workers according to the legislation may not be obliged to join or pay the fees associated with membership, nor can the worker be terminated if he joins the union. Under this act, workers possess the right to work, regardless of whether or not the individual is a member or a contributor of the union. The United States Federal Government operates under a national open shop rule; however, a large percentage of its employees are represented by unions.
Currently, 28 states in the U.S. and Washington D.C. do not implement or acknowledge right to work laws. If a union is not formed, the lack of right to work laws does not mean a worker has to pay union membership dues or join a union.
Arguments for Right to Work Laws:
Advocates of right to work laws state that the scope of law includes the Constitutional right to freedom of association and the common-law principle of private ownership of property. Proponents of right to work laws state that employees should be able to join unions or refrain from joining unions. As a result of this belief, advocates for the laws claim that non-right-to-work states are “forced unionism” jurisdictions.
Proponents of right to work laws contend that it is wrong to permit employers and unions to include provisions in a union contract that require workers to either join the formation or pay fees as a condition of employment. Moreover, believers in right to work laws will state that in certain realms, forced union fees are used to support significant political causes that union members may oppose.
Arguments against Right to Work Laws:
Opponents to right to work laws claim that the scope creates a serious free-rider problem, where non-union workers (individuals bound by the terms of the union contract although they do not belong to the union) benefit from collective bargaining without paying fees. Opponents also claim that because unions are weakened by right to work laws, wages will be lowered and worker health and safety is endangered. Based on these factors, they label right-to-work states as “right to fire” or “right to work for less” states. In turn, these individuals refer to non-right-to-work states as “free collective bargaining” states.
What States in the U.S. Practice Right-to-Work Laws?
The following twenty-two states implement right-to-work laws:
· North Carolina
· North Dakota
· South Carolina
· South Dakota
Basic Information Associated with Right to Work Laws:
What is the Basic Principle Practice by Right to Work States?
Right to work states all practice a concept instituted by the National Right to Work legal Defense Foundation. This principle upholds the right of every American citizen to work for a salary without being forced to join a union or pay fees associated with membership. Compulsory membership in a union is a contraction of this principle and the fundamental set of human rights that right to work states stand by.
Right to work states support the National Right to Work Committee which advocates that every person must possess the right, but must not be forced, to join a labor union. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation will provide assistance to employees who are victimized because of their proclamation of the Right to Work principle.
What are the Differences between the National Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation?
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee are distinct organizations—the foundation will work through the court system to aid employees whose civil rights or human rights have been violated by abuses of forced membership. In contrast, the Committee lobbies state legislatures and Congress for the elimination of forced membership. The Committee also conducts a nationwide educational program based on the Right to Work principle.
What are Right to Work Laws?
Right to work laws are only implemented by right to work states. Right to work laws guarantee that no person can be forced, as a condition of their employment, to join or not join the formation, nor to pay the dues associated with membership. As stated above, it is up to the individual states in the U.S. to acknowledge and subsequently enforce such laws.
Are Right to Work Laws Anti-Union in Nature?
States or organizations who implement right to work laws are neither anti nor pro union. Instead, right to work states are focused on individual freedoms and the citizen’s right to earn a living without attached mandates. Right to work states believe in the right to avoid compulsory union abuses or fees.
Rights Awarded to Employees in Non-Right to Work States:
The United States Supreme Court has awarded certain rights to employees not covered by a state’s Right to Work law. Individual workers may choose whether or not to join a union and all members of a union may resign from the formation. A nonmember may only be required to pay dues associated with unions as a proportionate part of the formation’s costs. Individuals may not be compelled to pay any fees until the costs have been explained; the individual can also challenge the costs provided by the membership.