Michigan has joined the 23 other Right-to-Work states in exercising the Taft-Hartley amendments to the National Labor Relations Act prohibiting union security clauses in collective bargaining agreements. Union security clauses require all employees to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
Nebraska’s and Iowa’s Right-to-Work laws have been on the books since 1947. In essence, the laws provide that no one may be denied employment because of membership in or refusal to join a labor organization. So, even if an employer has a collective bargaining agreement with a labor union, employees are not required to join the union or pay dues to retain their employment.
Michigan’s law is very similar, with a few added provisions. One provision that I expect will generate quite a bit of litigation provides a cause of action against individuals or unions that try to intimidate or coerce employees to join a union or pay union dues. The individual pursuing a claim under this provision may collect damages and attorney’s fees.
While there is much debate about the impact of these laws, the practical effect is not clear. For instance, while Iowa is a Right-to-Work state, it is unionized at a higher rate than Missouri, which does not have Right-to-Work laws.
Right-to-Work fan or not, these are certainly interesting times. Only time will tell whether organized labor’s decline will continue.