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Right to Work
The 28 U.S. States That Allow You to Join a Union in Your Workplace
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AnnaMarie Houlis
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Like with all laws, there are pros and cons to right to work laws. Here's everything you need to know about the benefits and disadvantages that come with the right to work law.

What is the right to work law?

First things first, it's important to fully understand what right to work is. The right to work law, which is also known as Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice, is a law that grants workers the freedom to choose whether or not they want to join a union in their workplace. It also makes it optional for workers in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of wage and salary workers who belong to unions is currently 14.8 million. That’s up by 262,000 from 2016 — which means that right to work laws impact a large number of workers in the country.

A 2014 Gallup poll finds that most Americans are actually in favor of the right to work law that gives workers the choice of whether or not they  want to join a union. In fact, 71% of the poll's respondents said that they would vote in favor of the right to work law, while only 22%  said that they would vote against it.

What is a right to work state?

If you work in a right-to-work state, you have the choice as to whether or not you want to join a union in your workplace. Likewise, you can also choose whether or not you want to pay the union dues and membership fees that are required for union representation — this is true whether or not you're actually involved in the union.

As of today, there are 27 states (and Guam) that have given workers a choice to make when it comes to their union membership. One state, Missouri, adopted the law but it was later defeated in a referendum.

1. Alabama

Alabama adopted the law in 1953.

2. Arizona

Arizona adopted the law in 1947.

3. Arkansas

Arkansas adopted the law in 1947.

4. Florida

Florida adopted the law in 1943.

5. Georgia

Georiga adopted the law in 1947.

6. Idaho

Idaho adopted the law in 1985.

7. Indiana

Indiana adopted the law in 2012.

8. Iowa

Iowa adopted the law in 1947.

9. Kansas

Kansas adopted the law in 1958.

10. Kentucky

Kentucky adopted the law in 2017.

11. Louisiana

Louisiana adopted the law in 1976.

12. Michigan

Michigan adopted the law in 2012.

13. Mississippi

Mississippi adopted the law in 1954.

14. Missouri

Missouri adopted the law in 2017, but the law was defeated in a 2018 referendum before it could take effect.

15. Nebraska

Nebraska adopted the law in 1947.

16. Nevada

Nevada adopted the law in 1952.

17. North Carolina

North Carolina adopted the law in 1947.

18. North Dakota

North Dakota adopted the law in 1947.

19. Oklahoma

Oklahoma adopted the law in 2001.

20. South Carolina

South Carolina adopted the law in 1954.

21. South Dakota

South Dakota adopted the law in 1947.

22. Tennessee

Tennessee adopted the law in 1947.

23. Texas

Texas adopted the law in 1993.

24. Utah

Utah adopted the law in 1955.

25. Virginia

Virgina adopted the law in 1947.

26. Wisconsin

Wisconsin adopted the law in 2015.

27. West Virginia

West Virgina adopted the law in 2016.

28. Wyoming

Wyoming adopted the law in 1963.

What are the pros and cons of working for a union?

Of course, there are pros and cons of being part of a union. Depending on who you ask, there may be more pros than cons, or vice versa!

  • Pro: Unions provide worker protections.
  • Pro: Unions advocate for higher wages and better benefits. 
  • Pro: Political organizing is easier with union support.
  • Con: Unions require dues and fees. 
  • Con: Unions may make it more difficult to promote and/or terminate workers. 
  • Con: Unions may discourage individuality.

What are the benefits of right to work? 

There are also pros and cons of the right to work law that affects unions. Here are three pros and three cons to the right to work law.

1. Right to work laws expand workers' rights.

The right-to-work law expands workers' rights by giving them the right to decide whether or not they want to join a union.

2. Right to work laws hold unions accountable.

Right to work laws hold unions accountable for the advantages that membership has to offer.

3. Right to work laws give workers more financial freedom.

Union dues add up — sometimes to a few hundred dollars per person per year. For example, the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW)'s monthly dues reportedly cost the about the equivalent of two hours' worth of pay. Right to work laws give workers to right to choose whether or not they want to pay dues for the union — whether or not they're even involved. (Of course, many employees don't want to pay dues for unions that they never wanted to be part of in the first place. And many employees don't want to give money to unions that may be using that money to fund political campaigns and other projects with which they don't agree.

What are the disadvantages?

4. Right to work laws may make businesses less competitive on the global scale.

Some business groups argue that right to work laws make American businesses less competitive on the global scale because they are forced to compete with low-wage countries.

5. Right to work laws starve unions of funds.

Because workers in right to work states have a choice as to whether or not they want to pay union dues, unions lose valuable funds they need to support themselves and put toward campaigns.

6. Right to work laws may diminish unions' power. 

Unions gain support by their members who fund them and engage with them. Right to work laws give members a choice of how they want to participate both personally and financially. This can diminish union power, which they need in order to protect workers' rights and organize as a collective with a shared agenda.

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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