Right to Work Law

Right to Work Law

Throughout the history people were fighting for their rights to live, work, and express their own opinion. For a long period of time not all citizens of the country obtained the same rights and freedoms. Generation by generation the community was realizing that fair and equal options for everyone would only benefit the whole nation. However, until this moment the workers are still struggling with high unemployment rates, discriminatory policies at the working places, and hidden pitfalls waiting for them in the corporative world. The reasons are multiple, from weak legislative base defending the working class, to flaws in the system in general. During all movements and anchors’ speeches one may notice an argument used by all of them, namely the right to work. Despite the name, right to work law has contradictive nature and multiple defects influencing the productiveness of the workers, their work conditions, and their connection to the unions. Experiencing various changes and amendments, today right to work law has different form. Nevertheless, before analyzing its principles it is crucial to delve deeper into the history of this movement.

The story of right to work movement overlaps with the changes in ideas and concepts concerning labor relations in the late thirties and at the beginning of forties. (Gall, 1988, p.13) During this period the issue of union security reached its boiling point. However, throughout this time neither legislative system, nor public movement developed any alternatives to solve this problem. In the course of the Second World War multiple wartime agencies were granting union security. After the war this issue triggered massive anti-labor movement stimulating the emergence of right to work initiatives. The result of this movement was the adoption of right to work laws by fourteen states. Basically, such laws granted the ability to every worker to choose whether to join the union or not. The main reasons of unwillingness to join the union were various money contributions together with low security provision. However, such laws demanded the union to defend every worker despite his or her status in it. The name of the law is rather tricky, as it does not guarantee the right to work for everyone; moreover, it contains more flaws than benefits.

At this point it is important to deviate from the topic of right to work movement and review the concept of unionism within the labor movement and general opinion of the citizens. One might consider the union as the reserved organization which has the ability to represent a worker’s interests only in the case of his or her membership. There is an opinion that a worker outside the union must join it for future benefits and the right to be protected. However, it is not true due to the Taft-Hartley Act passed in 1947. It basically guaranteed the workers who were not members of the union to use all benefits of the full time union members. “If a non-member employee is fired for a reason that the employee believes to constitute a wrongful termination, the union is obligated to represent the rights of that employee in the identical fashion as it would represent a union member improperly terminated.” (Ungar, 2012) Such politics triggered people’s outrage as it was unfair to the union members. Considering this resentment, the government decided that non-union members have simply to pay for the serviced provided by the union. At the same time, non-members are not required to pay any political dues spent on the union’s campaigns.

While providing, as it may seem, a fair politics of granting the right to choose whether join the agency or not, from the other side this Act minimizes the necessity to create or join the union in general. Additionally, this amendment creates an ability to escape any dues anyways and benefit from the union’s services. The advocates for right to work law claim that it encourages economic growth and defend the freedoms of every worker. However, while Taft-Hartley Act granted the right not to become a member of the union while enjoying all its benefits, it gives the permission to workers to bypass the union fees. As one can remember, the unions were created to protect the workers from the employers and guarantee equal and fair treatment. Concluding from this statement, one can assume that right to work law was directed against the union movement in general. As the result, all claims of economic growth with the help of this law are groundless. Moreover, there are situations when after adoption it by the state, the employers are relocating its businesses leading to job losses and cutting off wages.

As researchers assume, the success or failure of right to work law can be caused by multiple factors. As one can see, there are both relatively positive and negative examples of adopting this law by the state. While some analysts state that the example of Oklahoma revealed the negative side of right to work law, the others observe some positive tendencies. According to Ungar (2012) “rather than increasing job opportunities, the state saw companies relocate out of Oklahoma.” On the contrary, the other researchers state that with the adoption of this law, Oklahoma experienced 1% growth of employment and raise of wages. (Keating & Dutcher, 2013) The authors of this article also try to draw parallels between the economic differences of Texas and Oklahoma and South and North Korea emphasizing that the positive distinction achieved by introduction of the right to work law. However, there is no direct evidence that any positive economic changes were accomplishments of this law.

Analyzing the information, it is possible to assume that right to work law has its pros and cons. Its main advantage is the freedom of choice for every employee to join the union or not. It is the point with which it is difficult not to agree, the right not to be a member of the agency is the characteristic of free democratic society. At the same time, it is crucial to remember the past when the unions did not exist enabling the employers to act only according to their profits omitting the rights of their employees. It is easy to assume that right to work law can be lucrative for some employers. The majority of the opposition names the law as the main factor of destroying the concept of the unionism.

However, despite its controversial nature, right to work law was adopted by the majority of the states. The opinions to this law divided the public into two camps. As the opposition clearly sees and argues the negative influence of this law on the unions, the advocates emphasize economic growth in the states where such law was adopted. At the same time, they do not provide direct evidence of its advantages. Referring to economic growth does not have any ground as there is no research conducted to reveal the dynamics and connection between the right to work law and the fact of economic growth.

Two years ago Michigan became one of the last states adopting the law. As it was with the previous regions, there were a lot of protestors against the law, though it did not stop the officials to pass it. As researchers admit, the law obviously will kill the unions, but there is the growth of business in the region as well. “On the plus side, it helps to paint a narrative about an increasingly business-friendly climate in Michigan.” (Lansing, 2012) The time will show if Michigan will experience economic growth, though there is the premise for the elimination of unions or diminishing of their influence on the employers.



Gall, G. J. (1988). The Politics of Right to Work: The Labour Federations as Special Interests, 1943-1979. New York: Greenwood Press.

Keating, F. & Dutcher, B. (2013). Right-To-Work Laws help the States Like Oklahoma Shine. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2013/10/08/right-to-work-laws-help-states-like-oklahoma-shine/

Lansing, K. (2012). Now Michigan. Anti-Union Legislation in the Home of the Car Industry. The Economist. Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21568430-anti-union-legislation-home-car-industry-now-michigan

Ungar, R. (2012). Right-To-Work Laws Explained, Debunked, and Demystified. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/rickungar/2012/12/11/right-to-work-laws-explained-debunked-demystified/2/





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