What is a “right to work” for less law?

“Right to work” law prevents employers and employees from negotiating a type of agreement (a union security clause) that requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement to pay their share of the costs of representing them. These laws require unions to represent every eligible employee, whether or not he or she pays dues. In other words, “right to work” laws allow workers to pay nothing and still get all the benefits of union membership, collective bargaining and contract enforcement.


Why do union members oppose “right to work” laws?

These laws aren’t fair to dues-paying members. If a worker who is represented by a union and doesn’t pay dues is fired illegally, the union must use the dues paying employee’s money to defend the non-payer. Such representation may require going through a costly, time-consuming legal process.


Without a “right to work” law, can a worker be forced to join a union?

No. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that no collective bargaining agreement can require anyone to join a union. If a majority of employees in a workplace agree to form a union and the employer agrees to bargain with the union, a contract can be negotiated. Employees who do not wish to join the union would, under the contract, be required to pay only their fair share of the costs associated with the union representing them in contract negotiations and contract enforcement.


Is a union required to represent all employees covered by a contract (nonmembers as well as members)?

Yes. Under federal labor law, unions have the duty to fairly represent all workers covered by a contract. That means nonmembers who pay no share as well as members get the same wages, hours and working conditions established by the contract. Unions must bargain for everyone and enforce the contract terms for everyone in a fair, honest, nondiscriminatory manner. Unions cannot refuse to pay the costs of arbitrating a grievance simply because it involves a nonmember. A union that violates this duty of fair representation can be sued. This duty of fair representation applies whether or not the state has a “right to work” law.


Does a union security clause require nonmembers to pay full union dues?

No. Nonmembers are required to pay only the proportion of union dues related to collective bargaining expenses, so these costs are fairly shared by all represented employees.


Can a union unilaterally impose a union security agreement?

No. The employer and the union must negotiate a union security agreement. If management refuses, there is no union security agreement.


Why would an employer agree to a union security clause?

Many employers want to avoid the divisions and animosity that occur when some workers have to pay the costs of representing nonpaying employees.



 Wages for all workers are driven down. Both union and non-union workers in states with these laws make an average of $5,538 less a year than those that live in states without the law.

 Benefits are reduced. Employers in “right to work” states are less likely to offer benefits and workers are losing health insurance coverage 70 percent faster than those in other states.

 Workplace safety suffers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the rate of workplace deaths is 50 percent higher in “right to work” states.

 Overall quality of life declines. In addition to the decreased buying power of those in “right to work” states, the infant mortality rate is 16 percent greater while the poverty rate for all people is 19 percent higher and is 26 percent higher for children. Seven of the 10 poorest states are “rigt to work” states.