Right to Work Laws and Bills

Right-To-Work Resources

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, 25 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. Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work state, with a bill that was signed into law on March 9, 2015.


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.

Right-to-Work States


Year Constitutional
Amendment Adopted
Year Statute
 Alabama   1953
 Arizona 1946 1947
 Arkansas 1944 1947
 Florida 1968 1943
 Georgia   1947
 Idaho   1985
 Indiana   2012
 Iowa   1947
 Kansas 1958  
 Louisiana   1976
 Michigan   2012
 Mississippi 1960 1954
 Nebraska 1946 1947
 Nevada 1952 1951
 North Carolina   1947
 North Dakota 1948 1947
 Oklahoma 2001 2001
 South Carolina   1954
 South Dakota 1946 1947
 Tennessee   1947
 Texas   1993
 Utah   1955
 Virginia   1947
 Wisconsin   2015
 Wyoming   1963
 Sources: U.S. Dept. of Labor, state websites

State Legislative Action

2015 Legislation
Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work state, with a bill that was signed into law on March 9, 2015. Track 2015 legislative bills in our collective bargaining database.

2014 Legislation
Summary: During the 2014 legislative session, bills related to right to work were introduced in 20 states but no additional states became right-to-work states. The only state to enact a related law was Tennessee, which adopted a right-to-work statute in 1947. The 2014 law prohibits any unit of government from enacting ordinances or regulations that infringe on rights guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act, including provisions related to collective bargaining.

2013 Legislation
Summary: Right-to-work legislation was introduced in 21 states during the 2013 legislative session, as well as in the District of Columbia and the U.S. Congress. Tennessee was the only state to pass legislation, prohibiting waiver of rights to join or refrain from joining a union.

2012 Legislation
Summary: 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.

Additional Resources


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