How "Right to Work" Laws Limit Workers' Rights

There are perhaps no other American laws as paradoxical as "Right to Work" laws. In short, right-to-work legislation ensures that non-union employees receive the benefits of a union contract without paying any of the cost towards union dues. While these laws are passed under the guise of protecting individual freedoms - such as preventing workers from being forced to join unions - they are nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to undermine labor unions' collective bargaining power. In reality, federal law preventing mandatory union membership has existed for decades. The real purpose of recent right-to-work legislation is to persuade non-union workers that union membership is unnecessary. After all, why pay union dues when you can get the benefits of representation for free?

The political battle between right-to-work proponents and labor advocates has existed since the early-twentieth century. However, a recent Supreme Court case,  Janus vs. AFSCME, set the precedent for right-to-work legislation in the foreseeable future. Split along partisan lines, the Supreme Court asserted that public employees no longer have to pay union fees to cover the costs of collective bargaining. Why does this matter? Because the inevitable result of gaining fewer members and, thus, less money through dues, is the strengthening of the employer's hand in collective bargaining negotiations. We, as union members, know that strength comes in numbers. Smaller membership numbers result in a diminished capacity to bargain on behalf of America's working class.

But don't just take my word for it. Take a look at some statistics gathered from states who have enacted right-to-work legislation:

  • Pay decreases at an average of 3.1% (AFL-CIO)
  • Workplace deathrate is 36% higher (ILUNA)
  • Rate of employer-sponsored health insurance is 2.6% lower (EPI)
  • Rate of employer-sponsored pensions is 4.8% lower (EPI)
  • 29.6% of jobs in are in low-wage occupations, compared to 22.8% in non right-to-work states (USW)

To date, Utah has the third-lowest rate of union membership among the states, trailing only North and South Carolina. Just 4.1% of Utah workers belong to a union - which is under half the national average of 10.5%. This low union membership is cited as a reason why Utah routinely falls near the bottom of per capita income by state. Despite these constraints, AFSCME Local 1004 has been successful in negotiating an extremely worker-friendly Memorandum of Understanding between Salt Lake City Corporation and its employees. We were able to negotiate this MOU because of the collective bargaining power that our membership provides us. 

Don't let the grim statistics dissuade you. Being a member of AFSCME Local 1004 is vital to counteracting the negative effects that right-to-work legislation imposes. Let's work together to grow membership and ensure that Utah workers continue to have a voice in Salt Lake City and beyond.

To see the specific Utah Code regarding "Right-to-Work" please click on the following link: 

For more information and/or to ask me a question give me a call at (801) 931-9751 or shoot me an email to [email protected].