The term right-to-work refers to the law that prohibits labor unions and employers from collaborating to make everyone join the union and pay dues to remain members. After the Taft-Hartley Act amended the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employees who are not in a union may benefit from the actions of the union without becoming full members.
They may take advantage of these contracted union jobs without paying union dues; however, some fees may still be required. Those same employees may still join the union, but it is no longer required. No employer has the right to force any employee to join a union. However, an employer may deduct a certain portion of an employee’s pay that the union declared as collective bargaining expenses.
Collective bargaining is the process by which employers and the union negotiate the wages and benefits that all employees benefit from in the workplace. But, workers cannot be charged for any portion of the political or promotional aspects of the union.
What is the National Right to Work (NRTW) Legal Defense Foundation?
The Legal Defense Foundation works entirely with the courts to help employees that have had their civil or human rights violated because of the abuses of forced unionism.
Take, for example, the thousands of SEPTA or Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority workers who were told to strike starting November 1, 2016. The president of the NRTW Foundation told nearly 5,000 workers they can stay on the job if work continues, and they have the right to resign from the union if they do not believe the union is serving their best interests.
What is the National Right to Work (NRTW) Committee?
The NRTW Committee solicits Congress and the state legislatures to eliminate all types of compulsory unions. In addition, it conducts the nationwide program of education regarding the right-to-work principles. The committee and the foundation are currently working with home health care workers in Oregon. In their suit against the State of Oregon and the local 503 of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) asking for a legal mandate to force the officials of SEIU to respect the health care worker’s rights to cease the financial backing of the union. Additionally, they seek a refund of all fees and dues collected after providers made their objections to forced dues known to the union.
What is the Taft-Hartley Act?
Many people believe the Taft-Hartley Act or the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA) put a stop to employers who were only willing to hire unionized workers in 1947, but that is only partially true. The Taft-Hartley Act basically let the states decide the issue. There were shops that were referred to as union or “closed shops” that were legally able to require their employees to join the union after they had worked there for a specific length of time. The act stated that individual states could pass their own laws, stopping the forming of any union shops. These are the laws that are now known as right-to-work.
In the states that have not yet passed this law, workers who are in a union contract may pay workplace fees instead of joining the union. The decision is strictly theirs. The states who have passed this law states the unions must cover all employees equally. Lower wages and benefits have resulted from a diminishing of the strength of the unions. Federal law also says it is illegal to force any employee to join a union.
There are twenty-six states that have right to work laws; however, this number frequently changes, so check with your local Employment office or the regional office of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).
There are exceptions to who is included under the right to work law. Railroad workers and airline employees are covered by the Railway Labor Act (RLA). Nearly all federal employees are not covered under the act but may be covered by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Act (FSLMRA) that governs the employees within the federal public service sector.
When starting a job in a right-to-work state, it is possible to be taken care of under union laws without joining or paying dues. Even so, union contracts have become employers’ bargaining tools. You have the right to become a part of a union or to resign from one.
Since the right-to-work laws state employees need not pay union fees, creating a union, or getting employees to join one can be difficult. Many employees will want to join but not pay any union dues. This means the unions will be smaller with less available funds. Despite this, unions must still represent all employees.
What to do when you believe you are being charged for unwarranted dues
If union dues have been taken from your paycheck, you can ask that those are refunded. If you are not a union member, contact the union and ask your employer to refund those dues paid. If you unwittingly joined the union, you may resign. However, if you did join by signing an agreement you did not understand, you will need to pay the dues while you were a member, even after you resign, if they come out of your pay after your resignation. Or, you can contact the NLRB for a refund request.
When you have applied to quit or resign your union membership but were refused or told you had to wait for a window to open, contact the regional office of the NLRB.