What is “Right-to-Work”?

Chances are you’ve heard the term “right-to-work” or know that Indiana recently became a “right-to-work” state. Chances also are, unless you’re a labor lawyer or a union official, you don’t know what “right-to-work” actually means.

The phrase “right-to-work” sounds great, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t everyone have the “right-to-work”? Isn’t a law that gives everyone the “right-to-work” a good thing? What could be bad about giving people the “right-to-work”?

The reality is that “right-to-work” is an odious law and a complete misnomer. The “right-to-work” law does not guarantee work to anyone or have anything to do with giving employees the “right” to “work”.

“Right-to-work” laws are actually nothing more than devices by powerful special-interest groups to weaken labor unions. Period. What they do is say that employees who work in unionized workplaces—thereby benefitting from the increased wages, benefits, job security, and working conditions provided by a union contract—do not have to to pay their fair-share toward the cost of negotiating and administering that contract. In other words, “right-to-work” gives employees the right to freeload off their dues-paying co-workers.

The truth is that even without “right-to-work”, no one can be required to join the union at their workplace. What they could be required to do, before “right-to-work”, was pay their fair-share of the cost of negotiating and administering the union contract, an amount which is less than the full cost of union membership dues.

If everyone decided not to pay their dues, the union could not exist, and the union contract would go away, resulting in lower wages and benefits, inferior terms and conditions of employment, and no job security.

“Right-to-work” is wrong. Nobody likes a freeloader. If you are fortunate enough to work at a union workplace, pay your dues.