NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Should Cities Pass Right-to-Work Laws?

August 27, 2014

James Sherk and Andrew Kloster of the Heritage Foundation argue that local governments in states without right-to-work laws should pass their own right-to-work legislation.

While federal law prohibits employers from refusing to hire workers who are not part of a union, unions often negotiate contracts with employers that require employees to pay union dues, even if an employee is not himself a member of a union. These dues generally cost between 1 percent and 2 percent of an employee's wages.

But currently, twenty-four states have right-to-work (RTW) laws, which allow employees to work without paying union dues and prohibit them from being fired on that basis. The idea of RTW legislation is that employees should not be forced to support unions as a condition of employment, especially as unions engage in political campaigning and provide financial support to various causes.

Unions, write Sherk and Kloster, are uniformly opposed to RTW legislation. In states that have passed RTW laws, union membership has fallen. For example, more than 13 percent of workers in Idaho belonged to unions in 1987, the year that Idaho passed RTW legislation. Today, less than 5 percent of Idaho's workers are union members.

The authors explain that RTW laws attract investment, as firms that are not unionized have higher profits, greater investment and create more jobs. They encourage local governments in non-RTW states to pass their own RTW ordinances, writing that companies will otherwise be loathe to move their businesses to that state in the absence of RTW legislation. While there has been confusion over the legal status of RTW ordinances, say Sherk and Kloster, they contend that nothing prohibits local governments from making their municipality a RTW city.

Source: James Sherk and Andrew Kloster, "Local Governments Can Increase Job Growth and Choices by Passing Right-to-Work Laws," Heritage Foundation, August 26, 2014.


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