Right-to-Work Laws: Ideology and Impact
Posted: 23 Oct 2019
Date Written: October 2019
The debates about right-to-work (RTW) laws have raged for decades. Conservatives have long argued that a freedom principle prohibits employees from being required to pay dues even when a union represents them. Unions and their allies counter that RTW laws are actually intended to minimize the bargaining and political power of labor unions. This article outlines the ideology and impact of RTW laws in the United States. As constitutional challenges to fair share fees continue and state legislatures gradually pass RTW laws, there are many studies on the impact of RTW laws on wages and unionization, but the impact on politics is more mixed. This article analyzes the data nationally but also points to some conditions in which RTW laws may not have the impact that either their proponents or detractors predict. Literature on the topic has considered the following questions: (a) whether wages and working conditions in RTW states are lower than in non-RTW states, (b) whether such laws have the intent and effect of weakening worker-friendly candidates politically, and (c) whether legal interpretations of agency fees or fair share fees are correct. Drawing on the literature in each of these areas, I explore areas of future research and offer conclusions about the state of the literature, as well as the public perceptions of RTW.
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