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Right to Work

21. Right to Work

As labor unions began to organize and to bargain with employers on behalf of its members, many troublesome issues began to arise. For instance, if a union negotiated a contract with a company, did the contract cover only union members or those employees who refused to join the union too? Could the union insist that the employer refuse to hire nonunion members? If a member violated some union policy, could the union insist that the employer fire the employee?

To say that the union had the power to decide who worked and who did not meant that the employer was deprived of a fundamental right in running his business. Conversely, if an employer who hired and fired whom he pleased, it meant that, potentially, the union contract could be undermined simply by hiring nonunion employees.

Over the years an intricate system of rules, regulations, and laws has evolved to manage the many thorny issues that have arisen in the context of union contracts, including the protection of the rights of nonunion employees to work for unionized employers. These right to work laws generally forbid both unions and employers from denying a nonunion employee a job solely on account of his union status. Twenty-five states are currently right to work states. Twenty-five and the District of Columbia have no statutory provision, apparently allowing the union to bargain with the employer for the right to insist upon union membership as a condition for employment.

Table 21: Right to Work
StateCode SectionPolicyProhibited ActivityPenalties
ALABAMA25-7-30, et seq. The right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or labor organization.Any agreement/combination between employer and labor union or organization denying nonmembers right to work is prohibited; labor organizations cannot require membership, abstention, or payment of union dues.Harmed person may recover such damages sustained by reason of denial or deprivation of employment.
ALASKANo statutory provisions   
ARIZONA23-1302, et seq. ; Ariz. Const. Art. XXVNo person shall be denied opportunity to work because of nonmembership in a union.Threatened or actual interference with person, his family, or property to force him to join union, strike against his will, or leave job; conspiracy to induce persons to refuse to work with nonmembers; agreements which exclude person from employment because of nonmembership in union.Any act/agreement in violation of article is illegal and void; damages; injunctive relief.
ARKANSASArk. Const.Amend. XXXIV; 11-3-301, et seq. Freedom of organized labor to bargain collectively and unorganized labor to bargain individually.Union affiliation or non-affiliation not to be condition of employment; contracts to exclude persons from employment.Persons violating chapter guilty of a misdemeanor; fined not less than $100 nor more than $5,000.
CALIFORNIANo statutory provisions   
COLORADO8-3-101, et seq. Freedom to organize and right to refrain from organizingInterfere with, restrain, or coerce persons right to organize or refrain from organizingCivil liability damages; misdemeanor, first offense not less than $50 nor more than $100, 2nd and subsequent offenses not less than $100 nor more than $500, together with costs
CONNECTICUTNo statutory provisions   
DELAWARENo statutory provisions   
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIANo statutory provisions   
FLORIDAFla. Const. Art. I §6The right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged by membership or nonmembership in any labor union or organization.Public employees do not have right to strike; right of employees to bargain collectively through a labor union shall not be denied or abridged. 
StateCode SectionPolicyProhibited ActivityPenalties
GEORGIA34-6-21, et seq. No person shall be required as a condition of employment to be or remain a member of a labor organization or to resign or to refrain from membership with a labor organization.Membership in or payment to labor organization as condition of employment; contracts requiring membership in or payment to labor organization as contrary to public policy; deduction from wages of fees for labor organization without individuals order or request.Injunctive relief; costs and reasonable attorneys fees; actual damages; misdemeanor punished as provided in §17-10-3
HAWAII377-1, et seq. Employees have right of self-organization and right to form, join, or assist labor organization; right to refrain from organizingInterfere with, restrain, or coerce employees right to organize; influence the outcome of any employment relations controversyFine not more than $500 or imprisonment not more than 1 yr., or both
IDAHO44-2001, et seq. The right to work shall not be subject to undue restraint or coercion, infringed upon or restrained in any way based on membership, affiliation, or financial support of a labor organization.Freedom of choice guaranteed, discrimination prohibited; deductions from wages unless signed written authorization by employee; coercion and intimidation of employee, his family, or property.Any agreement null and void and of no legal effect; misdemeanor and fined not more than $1,000 or imprisonment not more than 90 days or both; injunctive relief; may recover any and all damages including costs & attorneys fees.
ILLINOISNo statutory provisions   
INDIANANo statutory provisions   
IOWA731.1, et seq. No person shall be deprived of the right to work at a chosen occupation because of membership, affiliation, withdrawal/expulsion, or refusal to join any labor unionRefusal to employ because of membership in a labor organization; contracts to exclude; union dues as prerequisite to employment; deducting dues from pay unless signed written authorization from employee.Any contract contravening policy is illegal and void; guilty of a serious misdemeanor; injunction.
KANSAS44-831; Kan. Const. Art. XV §12There is a cause of action if there is a constitutional violation. No person shall be denied opportunity to obtain or retain employment because of membership or nonmembership in any labor organization.Agreements to exclude persons from employment or continuance of employment based on membership or nonmembership in any labor organization.Damages; attorneys fees.
KENTUCKYNo statutory provisions   
StateCode SectionPolicyProhibited ActivityPenalties
LOUISIANA23:981 to 23:987All persons shall have the right to form, join, and assist labor organizations or to refrain from such activities without fear of penalty or reprisals.Cannot be required to become or remain member of labor organization or pay dues or fees as condition of employment; agreements between labor organization and employer.Such agreements are unlawful, null and void, and of no legal effect; misdemeanor; fined not more than $1,000 and imprisoned for not more than 90 days; injunctive relief; recover any and all damages.
MAINENo statutory provisions   
MARYLANDNo statutory provisions   
MASSACHUSETTSCh. 149 §19, et seq. No person shall, by intimidation or force, prevent or seek to prevent a person from entering into or continuing in the employment of any personNo person shall, himself or by his agent, coerce or compel a person into a written or oral agreement not to join or become a member of a labor organization as a condition of his securing employment or continuing the employment of such personLegal and equitable relief
MICHIGANNo statutory provisions   
MINNESOTANo statutory provisions   
MISSISSIPPI71-1-47; Miss. Const. Art VII §198A; 71-1-53The right to work shall not be denied or abridged because of membership or nonmembership in a labor union or organization.Agreement or combination between employer and labor organization to make membership condition of employment or where union or organization acquires an employment monopoly; requirement to become or remain member; requirement to abstain or refrain from membership; requirement to pay dues.Misdemeanor; fined not less than $25.00 nor more than $250.
MISSOURINo statutory provisions   
MONTANANo statutory provisions   
NEBRASKA48-217, 911; Neb. Const. Art. XV §13; 48-219No person shall be denied employment because of membership, affiliation, resignation, or expulsion in or from a labor organization or because of refusal to join or pay fees.Contracts between employer and labor organization to exclude because of membership or nonmembershipGuilty of a class IV misdemeanor; fined not less than $100 or more than $500. (28-106)
StateCode SectionPolicyProhibited ActivityPenalties
NEVADA613.230, et seq. No person shall be denied the opportunity to obtain or retain employment because of nonmembership in a labor organization.Agreements prohibiting employment because of nonmembership in labor organization; strike or picketing to force or induce employer to make agreement; compelling person to join labor organization, strike, or leave employment; conspiracy to cause discharge or denial of employment or to induce refusal of work on basis of membership.Any act in violation shall be illegal and void; liable for damages; injunctive relief.
NEW HAMPSHIRENo statutory provisions   
NEW JERSEYNo statute deals with union-security contracts but the state courts have upheld closed-shop and union-shop agreements. F. F. East Co. v. United Oystermans Union 21 A.2d. 799   
NEW MEXICONo statutory provisions   
NEW YORKNo statutory provisions   
NORTH CAROLINA95-78, et seq. The right to live includes the right to work. The right to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or organization.Agreement or combination between employer and labor organization where nonmembers are denied right to work or where membership is made condition of employment or where organization acquires employment monopoly; non-membership status as condition of employment; payment of dues as condition of employment.Any damages sustained.
NORTH DAKOTA34-01-14The right of a person to work shall not be abridged or denied on account of membership or nonmembership in any labor union or organization.All contracts in negation or abrogation of right to work are invalid; agency shop dues check off of nonmember of union as condition of employment or continuance.None.
StateCode SectionPolicyProhibited ActivityPenalties
OHIO§4113.02None stated.Any agreement between employer and employee in which either party agrees to join, quit, or remain a part of a labor organization as a condition of employment is contrary to public policy and void.Contract void.
OKLAHOMANo statutory provisions   
OREGONNo statutory provisions   
PENNSYLVANIANo statutory provisions   
RHODE ISLANDNo statutory provisions   
SOUTH CAROLINA41-7-10, et seq. The denial of the right to work because of membership or nonmembership in a labor organization is against public policy.Agreements between employer and labor organization denying nonmembers right to work or requiring union membership; requirement of membership or to refrain from membership or payment of dues as condition of employment; deduction of dues from wages without authorization; contracts declared to be unlawful by §41-7-20 or 41-7-30; 41-7-40.Misdemeanor; imprisoned for not less than 10 nor more than 30 days; or fined not less than 10 nor more than $1,000 or both; damages, costs, and attorneys fees.
SOUTH DAKOTA60-8-3, et seq. ; 60-10-10; Art. VI §2 South Dakota ConstitutionThe right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union or organization.Any agreement relating to employment denying free exercise of right to work; any coercion to enter into such agreement; coercion of employee to join union; interference with right to work by use of force or violence.Class 2 misdemeanor; thirty days imprisonment in county jail or $500 fine or both. (22-6-2)
TENNESSEE50-1-201, et seq. It is unlawful to deny employment because of affiliation or nonaffiliation with a labor union.Contracts for exclusion from employment because of affiliation or nonaffiliation with labor union; exclusion from employment for payment or failure to pay union dues.Class A misdemeanor; imprisoned for not greater than 11 months and 29 days or fine not to exceed $2,500 or both. (40-35-111)
TEXASLabor Code §101.003, et seq. No person shall be denied employment on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union.Any contract which requires membership or nonmembership; denial of right to work and bargain freely with employer, individually or collectively.None
StateCode SectionPolicyProhibited ActivityPenalties
UTAH34-34-2, et seq. The right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union, labor organization, or any other type of association.Agreement, understanding, or practice denying right to work based on membership in labor organization; compelling person to join or not join organization; employer cannot require union membership, abstinence from membership, or payment of dues or fees.Injunctive relief; any and all damages; injunction; misdemeanor.
VERMONTNo statutory provisions   
VIRGINIA40.1-58, et seq. The right to work shall not be abridged or denied on account of membership or nonmembership in a labor union or organization.Agreements between labor organization to deny nonmembers right to work or where membership is made condition of employment or where union acquires monopoly; requirement of membership, nonmembership, or payment of dues as condition of employment.Damages sustained; agreements in violation are illegal and contrary to public policy; illegal conduct contrary to public policy; misdemeanor; injunctive relief.
WASHINGTONNo statutory provisions   
WEST VIRGINIANo statutory provisions   
WISCONSINNo statutory provisions   
WYOMING27-7-109, et seq. No person is required to become a member of a labor organization or abstain therefrom as a condition of employment.Requirement of membership or nonmembership or payment of dues as a condition of employment; requirement of connection with or approval from labor union.Misdemeanor; damages sustained; injunctive relief; fine not to exceed $1,000 or imprisonment in county jail not to exceed 6 months or both.

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Right to Work

RIGHT TO WORK


Right-to-work laws made it illegal for employees to be required to join a union as a precondition of employment. They were the opposite of closed-shop laws, which forbade workers from working for a firm unless they became union members.

Federal legislation passed during the New Deal of President Franklin D. Roosevelt (19331945) greatly strengthened the U.S. labor union movement. The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 (also known as the Wagner Act) prevented companies from firing or unfairly treating workers who joined unions and required companies to bargain with duly elected labor representatives.

Although the number of unionized workers in the United States grew significantly because of the labor needs of World War II (19391945), in the postwar years an anti-labor climate emerged as a result of several major strikes, growing concern over communist infiltration of unions, and fears over the size and power of the unions. This environment resulted in the Labor-Management Relations Act of 1947 (usually called the Taft-Hartley Act). Surviving a veto by President Harry S. Truman (19451953), the law sharply curtailed union rights, though it did reaffirm the right of workers to organize and bargain as a group for higher wages and better working conditions. The law specifically gave workers the right not to join unions and outlawed closed shops.

The first U.S. state to ratify a right-to-work law was Florida, which in 1944three years before Taft-Hartleyamended its constitution to ban closed shops. By 1998, when union representation was weakest, 21 states had right-to-work laws (mostly in the South and the West). Indiana, one of the few industrial states to adopt a right-to-work law, became the first state to repeal anti-closed shop legislation in 1965. In the same year President Lyndon B. Johnson (19631969) pushed hard to get the right-to-work clause of the Taft-Hartley Act repealed, but without success. In the mid-1990s, thirty U.S. states had some form of right-to-work provision for some state employees, and all employees of the federal government were covered by right-to-work protections.

Opponents of right-to-work laws argued that such laws enable non-union workers to enjoy the benefits unions secure for their members without bearing any of the costs and that union membership is generally beneficial. Among the arguments in favor of right-to-work laws is that forcing employees to join a union as a precondition of employment violates their civil rights.

See also: Closed Shop, Labor Movement, Labor Unionism, National Labor Relations Act, Taft-Hartley Act

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