Right to work laws are enforced in 22 U.S.states, under provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, prohibiting agreements between labor unions and employers that require the workplace to be a closed shop. The right-to-work laws can be a huge incentive for business, since owners and developers won't have to negotiate with union. A Right to Work law secures the right of employees to decide for them whether or not to join or financially support a union. However, employees who work in the railway or airline industries are not protected by a Right to Work law, and employees who work on a federal enclave may not be.
Right-to-work-defendants highlight that the Constitution provides the right to freedom of association, arguing that workers are free to join unions or refrain from joining them. Some contend that it is unfair that unions can require new and existing employees to become union members and pay costly membership dues for services they may not want or are philosophically opposed to. Proponents of Right to Work laws argue that one of the positive effects of these laws for companies is that they increase labor productivity by increasing unions’ accountability to their members. Because they enjoy the special privilege of exclusive representation, unions have a legal duty to represent fairly all employees in their bargaining units. Unions are legally required to represent nonmember employees the same as members, but unfortunately this duty is often breached.
The AFL/CIO union argues that because unions are weakened by these laws, wages are lowered and worker safety and health is endangered. It forces workers to make decisions about unionization in front of union organizers and exposes workers to intimidation by those organizers. Opponents of Right to Work like to point out that the average wage in Right to Work states is lower than the average wage in non-RTW states. Since employers in right-to-work states are not required to hire union members, the union's ability to improve work conditions beyond legal minimums is weakened when membership is outnumbered by non-members in the firm. As a result, right-to-work states have higher employment related fatalities than pro-union states.Since right-to-work guarantees the employer can hire workers whether or not they are in the union, collective agreements can result in comparatively lower wage increases than in pro-union states.
US States: Right to Work Laws
Just by looking at the raw aggregate numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics it is quite clear that more jobs have been created in Right to Work states than in non-RTW states over the past twenty years.
The 22 states which have passed Right to Work laws are:
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Wyoming.
Right-to-Work: The Taft-Hartley Act
Passed in 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act remains the cornerstone of United States labor law today. This act amended the Wagner Act of 1935. Commonly called the Labor Management Relations Act of 1947, this legislation reflects the attitudes of post-World War II America towards labor. Due to "national emergency" strikes during the war, postwar strikes, and the advantages given to unions by the Wagner Act, a Republican-controlled Congress passed the Act in an attempt to restore the balance of power between labor and management. The Act restricts the activities of unions in four ways by:
- prohibiting unfair labor practices by unions,
- listing the rights of employees who are union members,
- listing the rights of employers, and
- Empowering the president of the United States to suspend labor strikes that may constitute a national emergency.