Back in June, we reported that California Congressman Brad Sherman (D) was circulating a letter to his fellow Democrats to introduce legislation to repeal “Right-to-Work” laws in 22 states. Now, with less than a month before the mid-term elections and five weeks before a lame-duck session in Congress, Sherman has introduced legislation to eliminate state Right to Work laws all across America.
Currently, there are 22 states in the U.S. that have laws where workers who are employed at companies that are unionized have a choice whether or not to join or pay the union. These states are known as Right-to-Work states.
On the other hand, in the 28 Non-Right-to-Work states (also called forced-dues states), it is legal for a union to negotiate a “union (income) security clause” that requires all workers covered by the union to pay the union dues or ‘agency fees’ as a condition of employment. If the workers refuse to pay the union, under a “union (income) security clause,” the union can have them fired from their jobs.
As background, in 1947, Congress amended the National Labor Relations Act with the Taft-Hartley Amendments which, among other things, gave states the right to establish “Right-to-Work” laws. Until the Taft-Hartley Amendments, from 1935 to 1947, private-sector workers in all 50 could be required to pay dues to a union or, if not, be fired from their jobs. The ability of states to have Right-to-Work laws is contained in a single paragraph within the National Labor Relations Act (Section 14 [b]), which states:
(b) [Agreements requiring union membership in violation of State law] Nothing in this Act [subchapter] shall be construed as authorizing the execution or application of agreements requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment in any State or Territory in which such execution or application is prohibited by State or Territorial law.
As a result of this one section being inserted into the 1947 amendments, states (through their legislatures) could determine whether or not to be a Right-to-Work state, or a forced-dues state. Therefore, the removal of this one section would make all 50 states forced-dues states, giving unions the ability to have workers fired for not paying union dues or fees.
From Congressman Sherman’s website [emphasis added]:
Today, Congressman Brad Sherman announced the introduction of dramatic legislation that would eliminate so-called “right-to-work” laws, which was applauded by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Sherman has a strong record of supporting working men and women and earned a 100% rating from the AFL-CIO.
Right-to-work laws require unions to represent non dues-paying employees, thereby undermining the basic premise and promise of union membership and creating free riders – people who are exempt from paying their fair share. Right-to-work laws create different standards for union membership in different states. This results not only in confusion over the regulation of union membership, but also places a higher cost on worker representation in labor rights states.
“I do not believe that there should be a right to be treated unfairly or to endure unnecessary restrictions. Right-to-work laws strip unions of their legitimate ability to collect dues, even when the worker is covered by a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement. This forces unions to use their time and members’ dues to provide benefits to free riders who are exempt from paying their fair share,” said Congressman Brad Sherman. “These laws are harmful to states like California, which allows labor unions to organize, because now we have to compete with the race to the bottom as our companies have to compete with those where the workers would like better wages, working conditions and benefits but are unable to organize to get them.”
“With the introduction of legislation banning so-called right-to-work, Congressman Sherman has once again demonstrated his strong commitment to working families,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. “Right-to-work laws undermine the economy and weaken workers’ ability to bargain for better working conditions, which translates into lower pay and fewer benefits for everyone.”
While Brad Sherman’s statement about workers in Right-to-Work states not having the right to organize is patently false (the National Labor Relations Act does not discriminate on workers’ rights to organize in a Right to Work state), he is accurate that his state of California has been losing jobs. However, there are a multitude of factors that have contributed to California’s demise—many of which were, ironically, caused by the unions that Sherman has so endeared himself.
Although Congressman Sherman introduced this legislation back in 2008, it had little chance of succeeding. However, with the mid-term elections and a lame-duck Congress following, the chances that Democrats (who are taking hundreds of millions from unions), it is possible that Democrats could vote to end Right-to-Work states.
As a result, now is as good a time as any to get Democrats (in both Right-to-Work states and forced-union states) to state their positions on whether they support an end to workers’ right to work.
[hat-tip: Projections, Inc.]
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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