Currently, the United States has 26 states that have right-to-work provisions either by law or constitutional provisions. Most of these states are located in the southern and western portions of the US, but states such as Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin in the midwest have also adapted the law. The latest right-to-work state is West Virginia and laws will take effect in May.
But what are right-to-work laws and why are there differing opinions about it? Basically, these laws prevent union security agreements which are agreements between employers and labor unions which govern how much an established union can require membership from employees, as well as govern the payment of union dues.
Essentially, what the law does is that it protects a worker from being fired because they didn’t pay union dues. Although workers are required by law to accept the union as their representative when dealing with a company, they can opt not to pay dues. It’s this amount of freedom that is concerning to some.
So are there benefits to a state that adopts right-to-work laws, or is it entirely disadvantageous?
List of Pros of the Right to Work
1. It is a fundamental right.
Workers have every right to want to be associated with a union or not. Public opinion polls also show that a lot of Americans are in agreement that a person shouldn’t lose their job just because they decided not to pay the demands of the union. Simply put, workers have the right to decide who gets a cut of their paycheck aside from taxes. The forcing of workers to join unions where they pay a “fair share of dues” is a violation of their rights.
2. It creates accountability for the union.
You can think of a union like a business: provide good service and you’ll see people come to you; offer bad service and you will see customers seek another. In short, if a union can deliver on their promises, they will see loyal customers in workers. But if they spend a lot of time on politics and policies that a worker is not in agreement with, then that worker has every right not to do business with that union.
3. Union memberships have been declining.
When considered as a percentage of total workers, there has been a pattern of long-term decline in union memberships. States that are non-RTW are still running on a system that many believe is not needed anymore nor is it relevant.
List of Cons of the Right to Work
1. It offers lesser pay.
Workers in right-to-work states make $5,538 less than those who work in states that don’t support RTW laws.
2. It affects workers negatively.
The job of a union is to negotiate in behalf of workers. In short, unions can argue for better working conditions for clients and even higher salaries. However, RTW laws reduce the number of people who sign up with unions. As such, workers are left with no one to defend them in case they have been unlawfully terminated or forced to work in poor conditions.
3. It affects healthcare.
As mentioned earlier, RTW laws result in fewer union memberships. Unions have long taken part in lobbying for better healthcare for their members. So a worker opting not to become a union member is entirely on their own.