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Thread: Right to Work Laws

  1. #1

    Default Right to Work Laws

    So I was just curious about what all y'all's views on right to work laws were. For those of you who do not know what right to work (RTW) laws are here is a synopsis from wikipedia "A "right-to-work" law is a statute in the United States that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers, that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees' membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Right-to-work laws do not aim to provide general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers,[1] or requiring employees to pay a fee to unions that have negotiated the labor contract all the employees work under." Essentially it is a law saying that if you work at a place where there is a union you do not need to pay dues should you neglect to join the particular union associated with your employer. I do believe that every state should be right to work however I think that the law needs to be modified, So that employees who decline to join the union do not reap the benefits that union members(who pay dues) do, so non union workers do not get the benefits from the union negotiated contract, which ranges from healthcare benefits to pay and pension. I think it should be up to the employee to make the decision of whether or not it is worth it to him/her to join the union, mind you, you don't have to join the union in non-RTW however as an employee you still pay dues that go to the union. I currently work in a union shop where I had to join the union and pay the initiation fees (300 some odd dollars) plus a $36 fee per week for dues. This job is a summer job that I have while home from college, I don't need any of the benefits such as health insurance or a pension through the union, However i still had to join and pay all of the fees out of my paycheck. I don't think that the money I make that is already heavily taxed should be deducted from more because i needed to join this particular union.
    Just thought i would throw my opinion out there for debate, I'd love to hear what other people think. thanks

  2. #2


    Sure, I'll bite.

    I think Right to Work Laws are a huge mistake. My reason is that I believe that there's no way to exclude certain employees from having to pay union dues without undercutting the core of the union system. Doing so could significantly harm poor and middle class workers in a variety of industries to the benefit of the already wealthy white-collar managerial class. These laws will most likely worsen workplace conditions and create greater income inequality between the rich and the poor, which I believe to be bad for society.

    So, that's a summary, let's talk history for a bit so I can explain how I reach my conclusions. During the late 19th and early 20th century, workers rights were sharply limited. The courts actually had rules in place related to contracts. Specifically, The Supreme Court of the United States said in Lochner v. New York, 198 U.S. 45 (1905), that the right to "liberty of contract" was a fundamental right of all citizens in the United States of America. What this meant in practice was that states could not make laws that tried to control workplace conditions or limit what employers could dictate to employees. At the same time, Unions were by and large scene as illegal organizations, primarily due to fears of Communists. The two combined to create nearly unbearable conditions for workers. States couldn't pass even basic laws like requiring overtime for working more than 8 hours or giving people a day off on Sunday. The expansion of industry and the influx of immigrants also meant that employers could dictate draconian terms and there would always be somebody willing to do the job. People suffered severely in cities: the lack of money for the poor meant that they lived in slums and ghettos, while the rich built vast mansions and owned many homes. The construction of major cities like New York and Chicago still reflects this era, though the brownstone buildings of today don't pack people 10 to a room like they used to.

    Now, let's step back further and talk theory. Many people, both then and now believe that everyone should negotiate. If the terms that an employer offers are unfair, nobody will work for that employer, or they'll get the worst employees and see poor productivity. That was the basis of the "liberty of contract" in the early 1900s and its the basis of Right to Work laws today. In my opinion, however, this idea that employers and employees negotiate for fair contracts is a fiction. The disparity in bargaining power between a single employee and an employer is simply too great. Employers often see tens or even hundreds of applicants for desirable positions. Especially in markets that aren't doing too well and have relatively high unemployment. So, the employer almost always gets to dictate the terms to the employee and if a single employee doesn't like those terms, who cares, somebody else will be willing to take them. Fixing this disparity took several steps. Unions were one, as were laws protecting workers. Basic things like workplace safety and overtime laws allowed people to have reasonable, humane lives, and the power of unions is to turn one worker, who would be irrelevant to a large company, into all their workers, which truly makes a difference. Collective bargaining is at the heart of unions and it's the thing that secures fair wages and benefits for employees across industries.

    Now, we need to ask how unions work. Unions are really tough to make work because they suffer from what's called a collective action problem. This problem is the idea that any single person has an incentive to backstab his own union. If the union strikes to try and obtain higher wages, the employer will often offer to pay other people to fill those empty jobs in order to keep the business running. This undercuts the union and forces them to make concessions. Employers have even been known to pay higher wages than those demanded by the union for short term employees in order to ensure that the union runs out of money and other resources and has to settle long-term for a worse rate. Moreover, if some employees of a company do not strike in solidarity with everyone at the company, the bargaining power of the union is vastly reduced and it again runs into trouble negotiating fair wages for its member employees. Even further, if unions don't have a fund of money and some reserves to help their members, it's very hard for them to engage in bargaining and strikes where needed because individual workers will always have less savings than individual managers. The way that unions have solved all these problems is by requiring all-union workplaces, with fair member dues from everyone. By getting everyone at a company to pay a little bit into the union, the union builds up a reserve fund for when it's needed, actually generating a much better bargaining position and allowing it to obtain much better wages and benefits for its employees. From the beginning, Unions have insisted on these kind of required memberships and all-union workplaces because these are the source of all their power to bargain or strike against unfair employers.

    So, now we get to Right to Work Laws. These laws undercut unions at their very core. By saying that certain people don't have to pay union dues, they cut out the support that is critical to allow the union to bargain for its members. Removing union benefits from some workers doesn't solve the problem, it just means that a workplace has workers without benefits, who will probably be hired to replace even more union workers because hiring a worker without benefits is cheaper for the employer than hiring a union worker. This is why I think Right to Work Laws are such a bad idea. Whatever logic you may think about what an individual deserves, the reality is that these laws are an arrow aimed at the heart of union collective bargaining. They are a huge mistake, and if they go on long enough, I believe that workers across many industries will see their wages stagnate and their benefits fall off as employers realize that the unions can no longer bargain effectively.

    TLDR: Right to Work laws undercut unions and are likely to screw over the very people they purport to protect. They're a huge mistake.

  3. #3


    The unions saved the US workers from the horrible abuses at the turn of the last century but have grown corrupt and greedy forcing most jobs over seas at the last turn. I think it is too late to save the unions and laws should be passed disbanding them.

  4. #4


    Although some unions may have priced themselves out of the market, there are still some like mine which work quite well and have protected our jobs from being outsourced.

  5. #5


    Not particularly fond of the free-rider dilemma they cause. Non-union employees will often still receive the benefits of unions without having to pay the dues, which is unethical.

  6. #6


    Quote Originally Posted by June View Post
    Not particularly fond of the free-rider dilemma they cause. Non-union employees will often still receive the benefits of unions without having to pay the dues, which is unethical.
    Which does happen where I work.

  7. #7


    OK I am hearing some things that are fact and other things that are theory.

    First question that has to be asked is: the union in the place of employment is it an open or closed shop?

    If it is a closed shop then you pay end of discussion. That should have been explained at the time of hire or new employee orientation.

    Second The right to work laws are regulations that have to be posted and are "Rules" that both employer and employee have, With things that both sides can and cannot do.

    As for most laws it is a quagmire of loop holes that both sides use and abuse. But the bottom line is that the employees can place union type materials within a designated area of easy view and no one can take it down unless authorized. And that the state and federal workers right regulations have to be in the same area.

    The rest of it is "what color of gray" do you want to discuss.

    OH just FYI: I was a shop steward for 4 years.

    Unions are a pain in the ass and cause the prices of the product to be higher then no union stuff, but on the other side of the coin big corp. do not give a damn about the human resource, because it is renewable!!!

  8. #8


    You know, I would have to say that it is too different between state to state to really comment on the situation too much. I know for one instance, some states that have the law also make it so you can be fired for any reason, even if its an 'illegitimate' reason outside of ethical/common practice. I've seen it happen before and its not pretty in some cases. In one example, I have seen someone get fired for getting hurt on the job, even though it was the company's fault for failing to provide tools in proper working order. Not to say they wouldn't be eligible for unemployment benefits, but lets face it, finding a decent paying job in some areas is pretty hard.

    Anyways, back on the topic. I don't particularly agree with unions that much, but understand in some cases they are really needed. The ability to bargain as a collective is an effective tool, but it really does take everyone in the particular workforce to make it effective. However, the choice to join or not should be up to the individual, and forcing people to pay for services they may not want or need should be outright illegal. I understand the whole 'riding the coat tail' issue, but union dues have really gotten out of hand at most places. I know the last placed I worked they wanted some $500 initiation fee and over $200 a month, which was almost the entire amount it would take to pay my mortgage for a month.

    All in all, imho, its better to find work in a place the is better environment where a union is not needed, and where there are other tools for bargaining and protection put in place. Its hard to find out there, but there are still some corporations that still value their employees enough to realize that they are in fact the ones that do the actual work so that the management team can get paychecks.

  9. #9


    I see unions as a necessary evil. Necessary because the lust for profit puts steady downward pressure on wages and benefits, and without some kind of organized resistance to this trend the working class would drop into poverty. Evil because unions themselves are business entities aimed at making profits. This is ok in itself, but when combined with the laws union lobbyists have obtained, union leadership has gained a lot of power to protect it's business interests at the expense of the rank and file members. Specifically, once people have a union it is extremely difficult to remove it or change to a different union, no matter how corrupt or incompetent the union might be.

    What I would like to see, personally, are laws recognizing all the people in the workforce at a company as being "the union", with the organization that represents them being recognized as their "agent". Changing union representation should be almost as easy as changing insurance agents. This would make unions more competitive and open to the needs of the people.

  10. #10


    I believe this legislation should be called the 'Right to Work for Less Pay' since it is a union busting tool designed to help businesses and corporations, not employees. I believe it is a wedge issue meant to divide the working class and it pits the poor against the poor as a means to weaken the unions.

    Let me explain where I am coming from.
    I work for a non profit agency that is not unionized. I work long hours and the work is stressful. Since there is no budget for overtime, I put in countless unpaid hours, I lost 27 days of vacation days last year because there was no time to take them, and all my sick leave goes out the window because I never get sick (even if I did, there wouldn't be time to be sick). I am also very underpaid for the work I do compared to similar employment in other sectors.

    In spite of these working conditions, I never felt the need for a union to improve my working conditions. The reason for this is because I feel fortunate and privileged to work in my chosen field. The work is stressful but highly rewarding and challenging. I am one of the lucky ones to work in something that has been more than employment, it became my calling in life.

    I contrast that to other people who are earning low wages without benefits and without job security, and I know many of them work at least as hard as I do, yet they don't get to feel the same passion and satisfaction for their work, sometimes motivated only by the fact they can be fired and replaced of they don't meet the employer's unreasonable demands.

    Even the name of 'Right to Work' legislation is misleading. It confuses people into supporting these harmful bills even though it's against their own best interests.

    Proponents of this legislation claim this legislation will attract more jobs to the state. The problem is that the jobs will likely be low wage and/ or part time. Corporations don't move into an area because the laws are going to work against them. They do it because it will raise their profits by using cheap labor. States with weakened union laws are bound to attract the kinds of companies that take advantage of their workers.

    A judge in Indiana ruled that the Right to Work laws were unconstitutional and unfair since they say a union cannot force a person to pay their fair share of fees that service them, such as negotiating, contracts, enforcing contracts, and filing grievances on behalf of employees who may otherwise get unfairly fired. These so called 'Right to Work' laws basically force the unions to have the right to work for free.

    Big business knows there is strength in numbers and this legislation is designed to divide the members of the unions and take away their financial resources. Hopefully more states will have this legislation overturned as unconstitutional.

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