Right to Work Laws

Topics: Trade union, Union shop, Right-to-work law Pages: 5 (1623 words) Published: December 3, 2007


A trade union or labor union is an organization of workers with the purpose of maintaining or improving the conditions of their employment. The union leaders bargain with employers to negotiate things like: wages, work rules, complaint procedures, rules of hiring, firing, and promotions of workers, benefits, workplace safety, and other important policies. Employers make deals with the unions in return for labor contracts.

The first union in the Unites States was created in 1834 and called the National Labor Union. This union was very ineffective and the Knights of Labor was started in 1869. It did not include Chinese, and only partially included blacks and women. They strongly opposed child labor and demanded and 8-hour day. Its popularity declined in the late 1800s because the public began to view them as anarchists and communists. In 1904, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and its affiliates had over 1.4 million members nationwide. Instead of rioting and striking, they emphasized bargaining with employers to get improvements like better wages, hours, and general working conditions.

During these times companies operated as a "closed shop" and required that all its employees be members (in good standing) with the union, as a condition of employment. In this setting, if an employee were kicked out of the union, for any reason, they would automatically be fired, even though they didn't break any of the employer's rules.

In 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act was passed. This outlawed the closed shop practices. It allowed employers and unions to operate under a "union shop" structure. This required all new employees become members of the union after a short period of usually 30-60 days. Under union shop rules, employers were still obligated to fire anyone who failed to join the union or to pay the membership dues. At the same time as the union shops, some companies chose to operate as "agency shops." In an agency shop the employee is still required to pay union dues bud does not have to formally join the union.

So the Taft-Hartley Act was a big step in de-unionizing America. But Section 14b of the bill took it even a step further. This section states that each individual state can chose to outlaw union shop and agency shop policies, and operate as an "open shop." The open shop rules state than an employee cannot be forced to join a union or to pay the union dues. The employee also cannot be fired for deciding to join a union. It gave employees the "Right to Work!"


In the United States, 22 of the states have adopted these right-to-work policies. So it's a pretty close half and half. All of the southern states have adopted these laws and the other right-to-work states fall in the central United States. Oklahoma was the last state to cross over from a union shop to an open shop state, in September 2001. All of the federal government employees operate as an open shop. But on the other hand, all professional sports leagues (no matter which state they're based out of) operate as a union shop.

Both Sides…
We'll start of with the opponents of the right-to-work laws. There is the problem of free-riders. These are the people who do not join in the union and pay dues but are still helped by the unions. So if they're already receiving the same benefits as union members, why would they pay to join? Many believed that the unions would be crippled by this. Union memberships would drop significantly and they would not have the funds to organize and operate. Without unions, people worried about the stability of good working conditions, fair pay, and many other aspects of their employment that the unions help regulate.

On the other hand, those that support the right-to-work laws have many statistics and figures to back up their arguments. It is...
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