Both Senate and House bills, if signed into law, would eliminate all state Right-to-Work laws and allow workers to be fired for not paying union fees.
Although they stand little chance of being passed while Republicans control both chambers of Congress, two nearly-identical bills introduced by Democrats last week in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate indicate that, were they to regain power in Washington, Democrats will push to allow unions to have workers fired for nonpayment of union fees in unionized workplaces nationwide.
On September 20th, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren [D-MA] and co-sponsor Sen. Sherrod Brown [D-OH] introduced a new pro-union bill (in full below) that would eliminate states’ rights to enact so-called Right-to-Work laws that prohibit compulsory payments to unions in unionized workplaces.
On September 25th, Rep. Brad Sherman [D-CA] introduced a nearly-identical bill in the House of Representatives.
Prior to 1947, Congressed passed the Taft-Hartley Amendments, which amended 1935’s National Labor Relations Act allowing states to enact Right-to-Work laws, workers in every state could be required to pay a union in order to work at a unionized workplace.
However, that changed after 1947 as more and more states enacted Right-to-Work laws that allowed individual employees the freedom to choose whether or not to pay a union without fear of losing their jobs.
Today, there are 28 states with Right-to-Work laws and 22 “Non-Right-to-Work” states.
In states without to Right-to-Work laws, unions are legally allowed to negotiate contracts that can require unionized employees to pay union dues or fees to unions as a condition of employment.
If an employee fails to pay union dues (or agency fees) in a state without a Right-to-Work law, the union can require the employee’s employment to be terminated.
“With the introduction of legislation banning so-called Right to Work laws, Congressman Sherman and Senator Warren have once again demonstrated their strong commitment to working families,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “Right to Work laws undermine the economy and weaken worker’s ability to bargain for better working conditions, which translates into lower pay and fewer benefits for everyone.”
Right now, both bills are largely symbolic gestures as they have virtually no chance of passing either the House of Representatives or the Senate prior to the 2018 mid-term elections.
However, if the Democrats take over the House and Senate in 2018, although it would likely be vetoed, it is possible they could make it to the President’s desk in 2019.
As importantly, the issue of Right-to-Work legislation could become a litmus test for Democrats’ presidential primary candidates for the 2020 election.