Real Questions With Real Answers About So-Called “Right-to-Work” Legislation In Michigan
From The “Elections Have Consequences” Department
Q: What is a so called “Right-to-Work” Law?
A: It is a loophole created under Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) that allows a state to enact a law prohibiting union security clauses in union contracts. It was enacted as part of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act, a major anti-worker overhaul of Federal labor law pushed through by the 80th Congress despite a veto by President Harry Truman. It is worth noting that this was the first Republican controlled Congress since 1932.
Q: What is a union security clause?
A: A union security clause requires all workers who receive the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement (also called a union contract) to share the costs of the administration of that agreement. A so-called “Right-to-Work” law prohibits a union security clause thus creating a “Right-to-Freeload” law.
Q: Can workers be forced to join a union before getting a job?
A: No. Under Federal law no one can be forced to join a union before getting a job. That is called a “closed shop” and has been illegal under the National Labor Relations Act for years.
Q: The “Right-to-Work” supporters keep talking about “compulsory” unionism. Do all workers have to be union members when there is a union security clause in a contract?
A: No. “Compulsory” unionism is a boogeyman created by folks with an anti-worker agenda. Again, under Federal law workers can never be forced to join a union even when there is a union security clause in the contract. This has been part of the law for years.
• Read the Case: NLRB v. General Motors Corp., 373 U.S. 734 (1963)
Q: Can workers be “forced” to pay for union political activities?
A: No. Once again, under Federal law workers can never be forced to pay dues for union political activities.
• Read the Case: Communications Workers v. Beck, 487 U.S. 735 (1988)
Q: Do so-called “Right-to-Work” laws affect wages and benefits?
A: Yes. The real data shows that once “Right-to-Work” laws are enacted, they lower wages and benefits for all workers. Workers in so-called “Right-to-Work” states earn far less then their counterparts in Non-Right-to-Work states. It’s the same effect with benefits. For more information take a look a these reports:
Q: Do so called “Right to Work” laws promote new industries and economic development?
A: No. Companies locate in a state for many reasons. If a company does consider locating in a state because of a “Right-to-Work” law, it’s because of lower wages and benefits. Purposely enacting laws to lower wages and benefits for all workers in order to lure low-paying jobs to the state is not a sound economic plan for Michigan or any other state. Michigan should have a sound economic plan that includes providing high wage jobs with good benefits for working families.
Q: Does a so-called “Right-to-Work” law improve a state’s overall business climate?
A: No. In fact, it has the opposite effect. It will create a climate in which businesses will increase profits because of lower wages but that’s not good for the state or its workers. When wages fall, state revenues from income tax and sales tax fall as well. That means the state has far less funding available to finance education, transportation, and other programs that are vital to attracting new industries and businesses. It is a death spiral.
Q: So, what about the reports from the National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) that the “Right-to-Work” supporters distribute about increased economic development in states with “Right-to-Work” laws?
A: The National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR) is an arm of the National Right to Work Committee and they have an anti-union political agenda. Further, many people have raised serious questions and doubts about their research methodology. There are many reports available from reliable sources that completely contradict the NILRR. If you see other reports from “Right-to-Work” supporters, look to see if they’re quoting data from the NILRR.
Q: What is the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC)?
A: It is an anti-union, special interest, out-of-state organization based in Virginia. It is one of the largest special interest groups behind these so called “Right-to-Work” laws. It has an outdated, partisan, anti-union agenda and raises a lot of money.
There are actually three branches of the National Right to Work Committee even though they don’t appear to be the same organization. Additionally, they set-up or advise state “Right to Work” committees. The three NRTWC branches are:
National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC)
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF)
National Institute for Labor Relations Research (NILRR)
Q: Does a so-called “Right-to-Work” law guarantee me a job or the “right” to a job?
A: No. “Right-to-Work” laws have nothing to do with creating or providing jobs for workers.
Q: Does a so-called “Right-to-Work” law protect me from losing my job?
A: No. Michigan is an “at-will” employment state which means that you can be fired for any reason or no reason.
Q: So, under “at-will” employment my employer can fire me for no reason and the “Right-to-Work” law does nothing to stop this?
A: Correct. A so-called “Right-to-Work” law does not guarantee any right to “work” nor does it stop an employer from firing you under the at-will doctrine.
Q: How did this happen so quickly?
A: On purpose and by design. The effort, funded by Amway leader Dick DeVos, billionaires Koch brothers and Tea Party groups crafted a plan with their pet legislators. A number of factors made this possible (analysis by Cooley Law School professor Devin Schindler):
- The GOP wanted no public comment or debate
- Schindler and other law professors say the strategy works like this. Lawmakers decided to use a number of “vehicle bills” with much different content. Those bills had already been read and had their public hearing. They took the bills and stripped out the old language, then drastically re-wrote them, adding the right-to-work language. They bypassed the public hearing process, because the bills were already read before the right-to-work language was added. Read more
- It is a lame-duck session, with (typically) less scrutiny and also allows for “vehicle bills”
- Term limits. 57 of the legislators will not have to face public accountability for their decision.
- One last dirty trick. In Michigan, unpopular laws passed by the legislature can be repealed by popular referendum unless there is money involved. GOP legislators attached a one million dollar appropriation to the bills to circumvent this democratic process.
This is an article from 2001 by “The Economic Policy Institute” outlining the effect of RTW legislation on wages.