Anti-union forces are campaigning across the United States to pass so-called “right-to-work” laws, which deplete union resources and divide union-represented workers.
On March 9, Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed legislation making Wisconsin the 25th “right-to-work” state. The law was passed in a rush-job special legislative session that Walker convened only days before.
The very next day, two prospective ballot measures were filed in Oregon — aimed at the November 2016 ballot — to make Oregon a right-to-work state for public employees.
In Vancouver, Washington, the Columbian newspaper called for a state right-to-work law in a March 5 editorial entitled “Right to Work = Freedom.”
Right-to-work bills have been introduced in Washington and a number of other states, but nowhere besides Wisconsin are they considered likely this year to get past both legislative chambers and the governor.
But starting in 2014, some right-wing groups began encouraging cities and counties to pass local right-to-work ordinances, even though those ordinances are likely to be struck down by the courts. The National Labor Relations Act allows states to enact right-to-work statutes, but says nothing about cities or counties.
So far, at least 10 counties in Kentucky have passed local right-to-work measures; the Kentucky AFL-CIO has filed suit in federal court to strike them down.
And in Southwest Washington, Clark County Commissioner David Madore has introduced a right-to-work resolution that would apply to county employees (see story here).
Right-to-work laws aren’t what they sound like: They don’t guarantee the right to a job. Rather, they bar any union contract from requiring that workers pay dues or the equivalent. In other words, “right-to-work” laws give union-represented employees the “right to work” under the terms of a union contract without paying any of the union’s costs. The laws are intended to produce economically weak unions, and to create workplace rancor between dues-payers and shirkers.