Republican Representatives Steve King of Iowa and Joe Wilson of South Carolina introduced a bill to enact a federal Right to Work law. If the bill passes the House and Senate, it will make what is already law in 28 states, the law for all 50.
What is Right to Work?
Currently, in states without Right to Work laws, a union must represent all employees of a unionized shop or workplace. The rights that were bargained for on behalf of the union employees are available to the non-union employees as well. Since those non-union employees don’t pay union dues, they may be compelled to pay dues that are often equivalent to what union members are paying. These non-union dues cover the considerable resources necessary to represent them. After all, if they’re going to reap all the benefits that the union won them, then it is reasonable to contribute to keep the union working for them.
Right to Work proponents do not agree and argue that non-union employees should not be forced to pay dues despite receiving all the benefits and typically higher wages. They maintain that it is an employee’s “right” not to pay, and have named the movement and legislation Right to Work. It’s a catchy name and it is definitely catching on throughout the United States.
That is bad news for workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, as of 2012, wages in Right to Work states were 3.1 percent lower than states without the law. Workers were also less likely to have retirement and health benefits as well.
Right to Work is also a sharp tool to cut union membership. In Wisconsin, when Governor Scott Walker pushed through the law through legislature on the heels of Act 10 in 2011, which repealed most collective bargaining rights for nearly all public workers, union membership declined from 11.7 percent to 8.3 percent.
Supporters of the federal Right to Work law seem to be following the Wisconsin blueprint to slash union membership nationwide. Just recently, Governor Walker disclosed to a reporter that Vice President Mike Pence. According to the AP report:
Walker said this week that Pence has expressed interest before on the law and that their conversation last week centered on “how they may take bits and pieces of what we did” and “how they can apply it at the national level.”
If there was ever a time for the IUPAT to put its renowned political activism to work, now is the time. Volunteer and protect the organized labor movement by calling on our leaders to stop this legislation.