disadvantage when dues payments are
voluntary, says Steven Bernstein, an attorney with Fisher Phillips in Tampa, Fla.
Union representatives also argue
that right-to-work laws promote “free
riding,” meaning that employees who
don’t pay their “fair share” of membership dues still reap the benefits of collective bargaining.
In states without right-to-work
laws, employees can still opt to pay
only agency fees, which are limited to
the cost of collective bargaining activities and don’t include expenses related
to union lobbying and other political
But some workers may have philosophical objections to union representation. “Employees argue that they
shouldn’t be forced to pay any fees to an
organization they might abhor so that
they can keep their jobs,” Plunkett says.
That’s why some employees support
right-to-work laws: These laws give
workers the freedom to choose whether
they want union representation.
There are also economic arguments
in favor of right-to-work laws, since
company owners may consider state
labor laws when deciding where they
want to operate, Bernstein explains.
“Economics drive everything that
happens,” he adds. “When you poll
Americans, on average they agree on
the basic notion of having the freedom
to choose in all aspects of their lives.”
Michigan workers—particularly in the
auto industry—have a long history of
supporting unions. “Ten years ago, people would have thought you were crazy
if you said there would be right-to-work
laws in places like Michigan,” Spitz says.
But while collective power might
appeal to older workers and those concerned about seniority, it may not resonate with Millennials, who tend to
be independent-minded and want the
freedom to make their own decisions,
according to Bernstein.
Unions might not see their existing membership numbers plummeting,
but they’ll likely have to work harder to
attract new hires, Spitz says.
Start by finding out your obligations
under any CBAs and state laws, Plunkett
recommends. State legislation varies, but
often it doesn’t require any changes until
current labor contracts expire.
If dues payments are automatically
deducted from employees’ paychecks
through a dues checkoff authorization,
be prepared to answer questions about
how and when employees can revoke
And, of course, keep monitoring
developments at the state level. “Right to
work is a state issue at present and prob-
ably will remain that way for the foresee-
able future,” Bernstein says. “I don’t see
this issue slowing down anytime soon.”
Lisa Nagele-Piazza, J.D.,
SHRM-SCP, is senior legal
editor for SHRM.
Right-to-work laws give
employees the right to work
without joining a union or paying dues, while at-will employment means that the business
and the worker both have the
right to terminate the employment relationship at any time
without advance notice or a
good reason (as long as there’s
not an unlawful reason).
States with Right-to-Work Laws
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures (citing the U.S. Department of Labor and state websites).