In-Depth: Right-to-work laws have been around since the 1940s and 1950s, and historically it has been the choice of a state whether they’d allow employers to require union membership for workers. There are 25 states plus Guam that have right-to-work laws, and three of these states — Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin — have enacted right-to-work laws since 2012.
Technically, unions can only collect dues from workers for collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance procedures — and these so-called ‘forced dues’ make up about 25 percent of what a union spends its dues on. While this omits activities such as political spending, lobbying, and union organizing, many employees feel they are obligated to pay full dues because of the wording “membership in good standing” that unions employers use in their contracts.
Unions have seen their political clout decrease as their membership has declined from 20.1 percent of the workforce in 1983 to 11.3 percent in 2012. But what hasn’t changed is that unions still spend big-time money when elections come around, in 2008 they spent nearly $76 million, and in both 2012 and 2014 they spent about $140 million. And nearly all of this spending goes towards one party, as 91 percent of unions’ 2012 political spending aided Democrats.
In countering efforts to expand the presence of right-to-work laws, unions like the AFL-CIO have pointed out that workers in states with right-to-work laws generally earn less money than their counterparts in states without such laws.
A study done by the Economic Policy Institute corroborates the AFL-CIO’s claims about lower wages in right-to-work states, but they also have lower unemployment rates and lower cost of living than their non-right-to-work counterparts.
Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user JD Hancock)