Sample Paper on A Review of Literature on “Right to Work State”

A Review of Literature on “Right to Work State”

Introduction

The ‘Right to Work State’ means that no person employed within a member state can be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or even pay dues to a labor union that they do not want to be members of. The law prohibits both the closed and union shop by securing the right of employees to make decisions on whether or not to join and financially support a union (Shannon 3). Under the state right-to-work regulations, a worker has the right to resign from any union and when they do so, they may not be able to participate in union meetings and elections, take part in the voting process or even participate in internal union activities. The law prohibits the union from disciplining those who resign from its membership or those who refuse to join and meet the financial obligations of the Union. The employees who resign are still fully catered for by the collective bargaining contract that has been negotiated on, and the union is still mandated to represent the employee (Smith 1). Any benefits that have been provided to an employee under a collective bargain agreement that include wages, health insurance, or even vacations are not affected by the resignation from the union. The right to work law has generated a debate with its proponents supporting it due to its prohibitions on labor unions and opponents claiming that it creates a free rider problem and weakens labor unions.

As at 2016, there are 25 right to work states that are included below together with the years they joined.

Country Year Country Year Country Year
1.      Florida 1943 10.   South Dakota 1947 19.   Wyoming 1963
2.      Arkansas 1944 11.   Tennessee 1947 20.   Louisiana 1976
3.      Arizona 1946 12.   Texas 1947 21.   Idaho 1986
4.      Nebraska 1946 13.   Virginia 1947 22.   Oklahoma 2001
5.      Georgia 1947 14.   Kansas 1948 23.   Wisconsin 2011
6.      Iowa 1947 15.   Alabama 1953 24.   Indiana 2012
7.      Nevada 1947 16.   South Carolina 1954 25.   Michigan 2012
8.      North Carolina 1947 17.   Utah 1955
9.      North Dakota 1947 18.   Mississippi 1960

 

History of ‘Right to Work States’

There is an Act that was enacted by Congress in 1935 to control and defend the rights of workers to join unions and jointly negotiate for better wages and benefits. It was termed as the National Labor Relations Act (NRLA) or the Wagner Act of 1935, and it effectively sanctioned collective bargaining agreements that are negotiated between labor unions and employers that created the union shops and closed shops (Shannon 4). A union shop forces employers to require that anyone who is hired by the company should join an approved union and pay their dues as one of the primary conditions of employment even if such employees do not want to be part of those unions. A closed shop, on the other hand, demands that for one to be considered for employment in an organization, they have to be members of certain unions. The Wagner Act of 1935 was seen as a union security agreement and its provisions removed any choice from the worker and guaranteed the unions a steady flow of income. The NRLA was viewed at the time to have given labor unions too much power without considering critical labor policies that were of importance to employees. An example of an unbalanced litigation that the NRLA enacted was establishing a list of unfair labor practices by employers but not those of labor unions giving grounds for intimidation of employees by labor unions (Shannon 4).

There needed to be a remedy to the NLRA Act, and this was achieved by the Taft-Harley Act of 1947 that sought to rectify the perceived imbalance that favored labor unions. The Taft-Harley Act amended the NLRA to include a list of unfair labor practices that can be orchestrated by labor unions. It prohibited closed shops and restricted union shops and introduced agency shops where an employee does not need to become a member of the union but is mandated to pay the agency fee. The agency fee was seen to be a fraction of union dues that are utilized to represent workforces in mutual negotiating and deliver services to each and every employee (Shannon 4). Any amount of dues that were utilized by the union for party-political initiatives or even for consolidating employees of other corporations in politics had to be excluded from the agency fee. The Act also mandated states to enact ‘right to work laws’ that prohibited the mandatory agency fees and if a state passed those laws, then workers within their boundaries would not be required to join a union to gain or keep their employment. Furthermore, the employees would not be mandated to part with the compulsory union fees, and they were given the right to reject union representation. The Taft-Harley Act had a huge impact in the US as within a year of its enactment, twelve states had passed it, and they were referred to as ‘right to work states’.

Currently, there are 25 right-to-work states with the number increasing every year as more states within America debate the significance of the law. The most novice members that enacted the law in 2012 are Michigan and Indiana, and it is within that year that 17 other states began debates on the right-to-work legislation. For instance in 2013, the amount of states announcing the right-to-work legislation increased to 21, and there was statute that was introduced in Congress to create a national right-to-work law.

Arguments for the ‘Right to Work State’

The main argument for the right to work laws states that workers should have the right and freedom to make a decision on whether they would want to support a union financially or not to do so. If workers can find sufficient value and appreciation for the services and representation that is provided by a union, they can voluntarily pay their union dues and ensure the continuation of the services they are offered (Smith 2). If such workers do not believe that the services they are receiving have sufficient value to them, they can oppose the union’s political activities and should not be implored upon to financially support the union. The principle is anchored on Thomas Jefferson’s statement that is based on the freedom of association stating that if one compels a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions that they do not believe in, then such an action is deemed to be tyrannical and sinful (Shannon 8). The U.S Supreme Court and protagonists of the right-to-work law infer the Constitution and freedom of association as the basis of their arguments that the labor force should be permitted to refrain or join unions. When workers are forced into a collective bargain without their willful consent, it surmounts to a financial coercion and a violation of the freedom of choice.  The rights of the minority and the need for due process is also brought to aspect since when few unwilling individuals are forced to offer financial support to an organization they did not vote for, they are compelled to receive monopoly representation that they do not have a choice over. It is entirely unfair and outright unjust for unions to demand that that both new and existing employees join them and pay fees for a collective bargain as a condition of employment and job security.

Right to work laws have an enormous impact on employee welfare as they give them the mandate to make more decisions on matters pertaining to them. The laws benefit the unionized, the non-unionized workers and those who are unemployed as they now have access to more job opportunities and not susceptible to paying union fees to guarantee employment. The unions negotiate contracts can be quite expensive especially for those that do not earn enough or are not employed since they require that members pay between $500 and $1,000 annually or risk losing their jobs (Michael Hicks 8).  Over the past years, unions in Michigan have been lobbying for tax increases and fighting efforts to expand charter schools. These unions have spent tens of millions in an attempt to rewrite the constitution of Michigan and implement their interests. Workers who do believe in such policies should not be forced to pay dues to support them rather they should be allowed to spend their money in supporting their objectives without losing their jobs. When employees are allowed to opt out, unions are forced to be more accountable to their members and only represent their interests. There are very few union members who vote for union representation as it is estimated that 9 out of every 10 joined by accepting employment from a company that was unionized (Michael Hicks 9). Right-to-work ensures unions are more accountable to their members and not necessarily assume that they support them thereby making them active representatives.

Another argument that supports the right-to-work law is that union shops as structured are means to circumventing a competitive labor market and, therefore, hinder economic growth and the free market. Union shops laws have an adverse effect on workers as they treat them as interchangeable parts rather than regarding them as individuals who can reason and make decisions for themselves. The unions force these employees to join organizations that have strong political preferences that they might not share, and have a historical background for privileging particular groups over others. These unions are quite effective at shifting economic resources but also hinder the growth of the economy and the creation of new opportunities especially for the underprivileged. It is within the rights of a state to seek to protect the economic welfare of its region and strengthen their economies as they strive to enhance economic growth. If such is encouraged at every state level, then the economic freedom of all Americans can increasingly be globalized as a more competitive economy is institutionalized. Right-to-work spurs employment as more companies can hire without getting worried about unscrupulous union demands. Employers will even want to promote the welfare of employees in a bid to ensure that they keep unions at bay, and the law gives them that assurance. The aggression that is commonly associated with workers’ unions is reduced since most employees will refrain from paying dues and hence unions have to use proper channels when fighting for the rights of their members.

States that have enacted the right-to-work laws seem to draw more business investors as compared to states that do not support or implement such laws. Right-to-work states have better commercial climates that the non-right-to-work states since companies tend to appreciate the labor management predictableness that is intrinsic in the states that have enacted right-to-work regulation (Michael Hicks 11). Companies within the right-to-work states are not affected by the disputes or threats that arise from unions. The right to work laws ensure that corporations and workers can enjoy longer peace for longer periods of time giving them an avenue for business. Many businesses in the U.S consider the right-to-work status as an important factor when making decisions about where to locate a business. Manufacturing companies, when considering where to build major facilities, look for reasons to scratch off states and no non-right-to-work state has ever been considered for such locations. On a national scale, the three states that are often targeted for novel jobs in the manufacturing sector are Indiana, Texas, and Michigan. Foreign automobile corporations have also established their plants in right-to-work states like Alabama, Tennessee, Indiana, and Mississippi. The National Institute of Labor Relations Research conducted a research between 2002 and 2012 and established that 22 states with right-to-work laws had their share of automotive manufacturing output increased to 52% from 36%. Their real manufacturing GDP also grew by 87% as compared to non-right-to-work states that fell by 2% (Shannon 6).

The aggregate employment rates in right-to-work states has augmented ominously while those of states that uphold the superiority of unions have declined steadily. The prevalent unemployment rate in right-to-work states is almost 10% lesser than that of non-right-to-work states. An example of a state that has exhibited such development is Michigan whose rate of unemployment dropped to 8.7% in 2013 from the rate of 10.4% in 2011 after they implemented the right-to-work law. The state enjoyed the ninth-highest increase in per-capita income that shot to $39,215 in 2013 from $38,291 that it had reported in 2012 (Shannon 7). During the 2014 budget that was proposed by the governor, he predicted that the growing automotive industry within the state will reduce unemployment to 7.5% and 6.7% in 2015 and 2016 respectively (Shannon 7). Right-to-work states tend to have a more vibrant and growing economy with a better workforce as compared to non-right-to-work states that are quite stagnant in their growth and development.

Arguments against the ‘Right to Work State’

The opponents of right-to-work states vehemently oppose the enactment of the law insisting that it violates the freedom of contract. The union’s agreement that’s made between the company and the union obligates the employer to guaranteeing that novel employees can join it within a quantified time period. When right-to-work laws ban the union shop agreements between employers and unions, then they appear to infringe on the rights of people to enter into contracts. Since establishments own the wages and the locations where work is performed, it is within their right to bestow both wages and sites exclusively to members of unions if they chose to do so. When the legislature interferes with employment contracts that have been entered into voluntarily, it infringes on the rights of people to bargain with their possessions and labor (Chartier 1). When such kind of interference is permitted by legislation, it means that the government is licensing arbitrary interventions into the market by politicians who are not well-equipped to question work agreements people get into. If the legislature can interfere with bargaining powers of individual citizens in this way, then they cannot be stopped from setting prices, wages, and even prohibiting the hiring of particular persons. Opponents assert that supporting a free society means that the Legislature should embrace the freedom of people to form unions and acknowledge that unions offer both employers and employees something valuable to work with. A union contract can safeguard laborers against arbitrary discharge, secure their terms of employment, ensure information is disseminated to them in time and reduce the assortment of workplace operation expenses. When right-to-work laws are enacted, they limit both the workers’ and employers’ freedom of contract as they prevent them from making mutually beneficial agreements, which they are mandated to do in a free society (Chartier 1).

Another argument against the right-to-work state is that they create some free rider problem especially for those who do not pay the union dues but benefit from their initiatives. Administering unions is a very costly affair, and the process of negotiating contracts is an expensive venture if not painstaking, and the same applies to the provision of benefits for all union members (Kinsley 1). When each and every person within the union pays their dues, costs are maintained at a lower value for all adherents and every employee is equally devoted in such a union. If some of the workers are not paying the union fees, it creates an imbalance especially when the union and non-union employees are working under the same negotiated contract. It means that those individuals who do not pay union fees get some of the benefits that membership of the union provides for completely free. In fact for most labor union organizers, they deem the right-to-work laws to be a representation of an attack on the organization and membership of unions making it quite difficult for them to promote the welfare of their members and other workers in general (Kinsley 1). Furthermore, these unions are accessing less money as compared to the amounts they collected before the right-to-work laws thus political lobbying and other activities engaged in an attempt to advocate for better conditions and remuneration for workers have been adversely affected. They reckon that employers are content with such laws because they reduce labor costs by weakening unions that struggle to assert themselves on the bargaining table. Opponents of the right-to-work laws urge states to shun them since stronger unions can make workers have better conditions, safer workplaces, and get better benefits, and they can only remain active if more members join them and pay dues.

The other argument that is postulated against the right-to-work law is that their enactment has an adverse effect on the middle class and undermine the economy of the state (Madland 1). Unions are quite essential for building a strong middle class since everybody can receive better employment packages that they have paid for. When the middle class is negatively affected by the law, the economy suffers the same fate because it is only through a strong middle class that additional business investments, entrepreneurship, and more growth public policy can be obtained.  The average worker employed in right-to-work states earns approximately $1,500 less per year as compared to a worker in a similar position working in a non-right-to-work state. The states with the lowest membership in unions are North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Louisiana, and Arkansas and all of them have relatively weak middle classes (Madland 1). The right-to-work laws seem to be weakening laborers within unions and adversely affect all wage earners and the economy as a whole.

Conclusion

I think the right-to-work state is legislation that all states need to implement to control the adverse effects that have been brought about by unions that are not properly regulated. Labor unions were previously an essential institution that called for safer working environments and better wages, especially for the victimized workers. However, the unions over time have misused their powers and turned into institutions that advocate for political causes that benefit a few in leadership positions and not all union members. Currently, union executives are overinvolved in acquiring political campaign contributions for their aspirants of choice. Right-to-work laws do not preclude unions from attending to the interests of its members or non-paying riders rather it requires them to accord employees an opportunity to choose to support those exertions financially. If unions represent their members well and meet their needs, then more people will join and pay dues, and that forms the basis for a strong union. Strong unions that are focused on representing and servicing their members have less time and resource to engage in politics, and this leads to a better business climate, growth of the economy, and reduction of unemployment rates.

 

Works Cited

Chartier, Gary. “What’s Wrong with Right-to-Work.” 26 April 2012. Foundation for Economic Education Website. Web. 4 March 2016. <http://fee.org/articles/whats-wrong-with-right-to-work/>.

Kinsley, Michael. “The Liberal Case Against Right-to-Work Laws.” 12 December 2012. BloombergView Website. Web. 4 March 2016. <http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2012-12-12/the-conservative-case-for-right-to-work-laws>.

Madland, David. “Right-to-Work Laws Harm the Middle Class.” 12 December 2012. US News Website. Web. 4 March 2016. <http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/are-right-to-work-laws-good-for-states/right-to-work-laws-harm-the-middle-class>.

Michael Hicks, Ph.D. and Michael LaFaive. Economic Growth and Right-to-Work Laws. Policy Paper. Midland, Michigan: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 2013. Document.

Shannon, Erin. Right-to-Work: What it is and how it works. Policy Paper. Washington: Washington Policy Center, 2014. Print.

Smith, Se. “Right to Work Laws Explained.” Truthout (2012): 1-2. Web. 4 March 2016. <http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/13568-right-to-work-laws-explained>.