By Sean Higgins
February 1, 2017
Republican lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday that would prohibit workers from being required to support a union, making right-to-work laws the national standard. If enacted, the legislation would be a major challenge for organized labor, which has long counted on union-management contracts that force non-members to pay regular union fees.
Reps. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., and Steve King, R-Iowa, sponsors of the legislation, said that joining a union should be the worker's choice. "At least 80 percent of Americans are opposed to forcing employees to pay dues as a condition of their employment, and our bill would protect workers by eliminating the forced-dues clauses in federal statute," Wilson said.
King noted that their proposed legislation is the law in 27 states. "As early as 1947, Congress tacitly admitted that this concept of 'monopoly bargaining' does indeed violate the rights of workers. As a result, they allowed states to 'opt-out' if they passed right-to-work laws while making 'forced unionization' the default. Twenty-seven states have now done so, effectively mitigating the negative impact of this misguided federal labor law. However, the fact remains that Congress created the problem in the first place, and it is Congress's responsibility to correct it," he said.
The legislation would amend the National Labor Relations Act, the main federal law covering private-sector unions, and the Railway Labor Act, an earlier law that covers transportation industry unions. It would prohibit so-called "security clauses" that require all employees in a unionized workplace to join a union or pay one a regular fee as a condition of employment.
Union leaders hate the laws, which are associated with declining membership and depleted treasuries as workers opt out of membership. They argue that security clauses are fair because union collective bargaining benefits all workers. Prohibiting them serves to weaken unions, which hurts workers overall, they argue.
Drives down wages
Raises the poverty rate
Make us less safe at work
It's WRONG for working families," the AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, tweeted.
Wilson and King introduced a version of the legislation in 2015 but it went nowhere. They have reason to be more optimistic this time, as President Trump endorsed right-to-work laws during the campaign.