IUE-CWA Local 123

Right to work or right to less?

A right-to-work law is a statute in the United States of America that prohibits union security agreements, or agreements between labor unions and employers that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees' membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. "Right-to-work" laws do not, as the short phrase might suggest, aim to provide a general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers.

Right-to-work laws exist in twenty-four U.S. states, mostly in the southern and western United States but also in central states such as Michigan. Such laws are allowed under the 1947 federal Taft–Hartley Act. A further distinction is often made within the law between those employed by state and municipal governments and those employed by the private sector with states that are otherwise union shop having right to work laws in effect for government employees.


President Obama criticized Michigan’s Republican leaders during a visit to a Detroit-area auto plant Monday for advancing a new “right-to-work” bill, saying it would hurt workers’ ability to bargain for better wages.

Obama had traveled to Daimler’s Detroit Diesel facility as the company announced plans for new technology and expanded production at the 74-year-old plant. The $100 million investment will add 115 jobs to the 2,200-member workforce.

Obama’s remarks included another call on Washington Republicans to act swiftly to prevent an increase in income tax rates for most Americans that would be triggered by the so-called fiscal cliff, the latest example of his post-election plan to rally public support for his plan.

But Obama, who won a second term in part due to the organizational might of labor, also weighed in on the effort backed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the state’s GOP-led legislature to make Michigan the 24th state to enact legislation that would bar unions from requiring that workers pay dues.

Snyder surprised many in the state by supporting the last-minute effort to pass the so-called “Freedom to Work” law in the waning days of the legislative session. He said it would help the state compete for jobs by letting investors “know that Michigan is the place to do business.” Supporters say it was all the more important after Indiana passed similar legislation earlier this year.

But Obama, who earlier greeted Snyder after touching down in the state, said “right to work” laws have nothing to do with economics, and “everything to do with politics.”

“We should do everything we can to keep creating good middle-class jobs that help folks rebuild security for their families,” Obama said to Daimler workers. “What we shouldn't be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions.”

“What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money,” he said.

Snyder earlier met with Democratic members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, who urged him to veto the law when it reaches his desk.


Right to work states as of 2012
Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming.


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