right-to-work laws

  • December 14, 2012

    by E. Sebastian Arduengo

    Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) despite a massive outcry of protestors at the state capitol in Lansing signed a so-called “right-to-work” bill into law. And just like in neighboring Indiana, right to work passed despite a massive outcry, and Michigan joined 23 other states that have passed such legislation in a seeming race to the bottom for the benefit of corporations that have made massive political donations to the Republican proponents of these bills.

    So what is “right to work,” and why are so many Republican officials making it a legislative priority? Put simply, right-to-work legislation prohibits agreements that require employees of a firm to maintain union membership as a condition of employment, allowing workers who choose to do so the right to “work through a strike.” The problem with this is that federal law requires unions to bargain for a contract that benefits all workers, regardless of whether they become members of the union. And, unions are founded on the premise of collective action, when individuals can take advantage of the benefits that unions win in contracts without having to pay their fair share in dues; it creates a massive free-rider problem that undermines the purposes, and ultimately the benefits that a union provides. For that reason, the AFL-CIO calls this kind of legislation a “right to work for less [pay/benefits]” law.

  • September 20, 2005
    Guest Post

    by Judy Scott, General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union.

    Television images of Katrina brought into our homes the stark reality of the poverty that exists in our country today, particularly in the south. Many of those hit hardest by the storm have been the working poor, who often work two or three part-time jobs at wages at or close to the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour with no benefits. Even many workers reconstructing the Gulf States are being asked to do the hard work of rebuilding without getting a paycheck that supports a family, affordable health care, or other benefits.

    Among the culprits responsible for this sorry state of affairs are the so-called "right-to-work" laws found in Louisiana, Mississippi and twenty other states. Deceitfully named, right-to-work laws have been passed by legislatures in mostly southern and plains states as part of a national conservative strategy to weaken workers' voices on the job and suppress wages.  

    More accurately called "right to work for less," these laws weaken workers' ability to win better wages, benefits and working conditions through a union.

    As America helps the Gulf States rebuild however, it is time to repeal these laws and begin to reward the hard work of families and help bring the American Dream back within reach for workers.