What Is "right to Work"?


Quick Answer

The concept of "right-to-work" relates to laws that purport to protect the rights of nonunion employees to work for unionized employers. A right-to-work law guarantees that employees cannot be forced to join a labor union and cannot be fired if they don't join.

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Full Answer

The ability of states to pass right-to-work laws was authorized by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, also known as the Labor Management Relations Act, which aimed to limit union power in the workplace. Almost half the states have right-to-work laws. Adoption of these laws by a state has been possible since the 1950s and remains controversial, as of 2014. Proponents of right-to-work laws argue that no person should be forced to become a union member or support the union financially as a condition of employment. Such compulsion is said to run counter to constitutional concepts of individual rights and freedom of association.

Opponents of right-to-work laws claim that everyone should pay a proportionate share of the costs of the union in negotiating contracts that benefit all employees, and that nonunion workers get a free ride. Unions also claim that the real purpose of right-to-work laws is to breed dissension among workers and to weaken the influence of the labor movement.

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