Topic of the Week What are Right-to-Work laws and how do they affect you?
You'll encounter right-to-work laws:
Public sector jobs
When being hired for a job
When being contacted by a union organizer
When trying to organize a union or negotiate a union contract
When union dues are deducted from your paycheck
In the public-sector union context, right-to-work laws mean that union members do not have to pay union dues to be members of the union. In states that have enacted right-to-work laws that apply to private employers, although states vary, most Right-to-Work laws prohibit labor unions and employers from entering into contracts that only employ unionized workers for the jobs in the contract. This allows employees to receive the benefits of the union contract without having to join and pay their share of dues and fees to the union. Contrary to what proponents of Right-to-Work legislation have said in the past, non-Right-to-Work states do not force employees to unionize; this is strictly prohibited by federal law.
Currently, 28 states have Right-to-Work laws. These states include: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri (effective August 28th, 2017), Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia (not currently in effect due to pending litigation), Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Note: if your state is not listed, it does not currently have a right-to-work law, but this area is constantly changing, so please consult with an attorney in your state for additional information.
Where might you encounter right-to-work laws in the workplace?
Public-Sector Jobs: right to work laws apply to all public-sector unions, so if you work in a state or federal government position, you are no longer obligated to pay union dues to be a part of the union.
When Being Hired for a Job: When being hired in a Right-to-Work state, you can be covered under a union contract and not be a member or pay any fees to that union. In a Right-to-Work state or in the public-sector, just as in states without these laws, employees are still bound by the union contract and the union is the employee’s exclusive bargaining agent.
When Being Contacted by a Union Organizer: When being contacted by a union organizer about joining a union in a Right-to-Work state or in the public-sector, it is your legal right to refuse to join the union or pay membership fees. The same is true for states without Right-to-Work laws. You have the right to join a union, and you also have the right to resign membership after joining that union.
When Trying to Organize a Union or Negotiate a Union Contract: If you are trying to negotiate union contracts, or even organize a union itself, it is important to remember that in states with Right-to-Work laws, the workers covered under the union contract do not have to be members of the union or pay membership fees. Therefore, you can expect to find workers wanting to have a union contract without wanting to pay union dues and membership fees. This could potentially lead to fewer members and funds for unions. While Right-to-Work states do not require all beneficiaries of union contracts to pay dues or be members, the union itself must represent all workers under that contract the same.
When Union Dues Are Deducted From Your Paycheck: If you are covered under a union contract in a Right-to-Work state or in the public-sector, you are not required to pay dues. If you were never a union member, you should contact the union and your employer about the fees being deducted since you are not required to pay them. If you are a union member and no longer want to be, you have the right to resign your membership. If you choose to do this, you should notify the union that you do not want to pay dues. However, depending on what dues you have agreed to you may still have to pay some fees after resigning your membership.
Although most employment rights and labor groups are strongly opposed to Right-to-Work laws, proponents argue that Right-to-Work laws simply secure employees’ rights to choose for themselves whether or not to join and/or support a union rather than forcing workers to join as a term of employment. Opponents of Right-to-Work laws consider those laws to enable workers to be freeloaders, to enjoy the benefits of being a union member such as higher wages and job protections, but without paying any of the costs of collective bargaining.