The December issue looks at the work states face to deal with the health care needs of an aging population and new approaches to teacher evaluations.
Under right-to-work laws, states have the authority to determine whether workers can be required to join a labor union to get or keep a job.
Currently, 24 states and Guam have given workers a choice when it comes to union membership. Labor unions still operate in those states, but workers cannot be compelled to become members as a requirement of their job.
In states without a right-to-work law, employees may be required to join a labor union if it represents workers at their place of employment. Those who refuse to join the union may still be required to pay for the costs of representation, since they profit from the union’s efforts in negotiating wages and benefits on behalf of all employees. Such “fair share” payments are often equivalent to the cost of union dues.
The first right-to-work laws were passed in the 1940s and 1950s, predominantly in Southern states. Most right-to-work laws were enacted by statute but 10 states adopted them by constitutional amendments. There was a surge of interest in the issue in the 1970s and again in the 1990s, but only a handful of states have enacted right to work laws since the initial wave in the mid-20th century.
Federal law sets standards for the operation of labor unions in the private sector through the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act of 1959. Provisions of federal law govern union elections, management, finances and reporting. Right to work, however, has remained a state issue.
Nineteen states debated right-to-work legislation during the 2012 session. Laws were passed in four states, two of which either established or expanded right-to-work laws and two of which added enforcement or notice provisions to their current right-to-work laws. Michigan became a right-to-work state and Indiana expanded its right-to-work provisions from covering just school employees, to covering all private sector employment.
The activity in the 2012 legislative session compares to sixteen states that considered right-to-work bills in the 2011 legislative session, although none passed.
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