The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act allows state governments to determine whether workers can be forced to join a union, or pay union dues or fees, as a condition of employment. Right-to-work laws guarantee workers can seek employment without fearing they will be required to join or pay dues to a union if they are hired.
Currently, 27 states have adopted right-to-work laws, the most recent being Kentucky.
- The right of all individuals to work without having to join a union, or pay union dues or fees, as a condition of employment.
- The National Right to Work Act (H.R. 2571/S. 525), introduced by Rep. Wilson (R-S.C.) and Sen. Paul (R-Ky.), which amends the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act to preserve and protect the free choice of individual employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, or to refrain from such activities
- Any federal or state laws that require workers to join a union, or pay union dues or fees, as a condition of employment or as a condition of participating on a construction project procured by a federal, state or local government entity.
The purpose of right-to-work laws is not to eliminate unions, but rather to guarantee basic fairness for workers. Right-to-work laws ensure workers have an opportunity to choose whether union representation makes sense for them. If all or most of the members of a bargaining unit believe union representation will advance their interests, then nothing in a right-to-work law inhibits them from exercising their federally protected right to organize a union and collectively bargain with their employer. Right-to-work laws simply allow workers who do not want to participate in the union to opt out of joining the union or paying dues or fees.
Americans have shown overwhelming support for right-to-work measures. In a 2014 Gallup poll, 71% of respondents said they would support such a law if given the opportunity. The poll also found that 82% of Americans agreed that “no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will.”
Many state leaders believe right-to-work laws could be a key to jumpstarting economic growth in the wake of the recession. Economic growth in right-to-work states often outpaces growth in states where workers are forced to join a union or pay a fee to organized labor as a condition of employment. For example, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports private sector employment grew 5.2% faster between 2003 and 2013 in right-to-work states than in their non-right-to-work counterparts. Additionally, the U.S. Department of Commerce reports real gross domestic product growth in manufacturing increased 11.8% faster from 2002 to 2012 in right-to-work states than in non-right-to-work states. While some say these economic gains come at the expense of workers’ wages, Department of Commerce data show per-capita disposable personal income in 2013 (adjusted for cost of living) was higher in right-to-work states than the national average, as well as higher than non-right-to-work states.