Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) reintroduced the National Right to Work Act, which would allow workers to abstain from labor union dues.
The act, S. 406, would amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act, both of which force non-union workers to pay labor union dues. Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC-2) reintroduced H.R. 1275, the House companion legislation to Paul’s bill. The Senate bill currently has 16 co-sponsors and the House version has 73.
“The National Right to Work Act ensures all American workers have the ability to choose to refrain from joining or paying dues to a union as a condition for employment,” Paul said in a statement. “Kentucky and 26 other states have already passed right to work laws. It’s time for the federal government to follow their lead.”
Right to work (RTW) laws have expanded over the past decade. Indiana passed right to work laws in 2012, and five other states have followed in its tracks. Missouri passed a right to work bill in 2017, but a 2018 referendum reversed the law.
RTW is especially timely in light of recent labor union corruption scandals involving mismanagement or embezzlement of union dues. For example, federal charges have been filed against 15 employees of the United Auto Workers, including two presidents, in an embezzlement scandal going back to 2017.
Researchers have analyzed the economic impact of right to work laws. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce cited a 2018 report by NERA Economic Consulting that found many benefits from these laws. For example, the study reported that private sector employment grew by 27 percent in right-to-work states compared to 15 percent in non-RTW states. The study also showed a nine percent advantage in economic output in right to work states, a nine percent advantage in manufacturing output, and a 10 percent advantage in personal income.
“This legislation would enshrine the common-sense principle—already enforced in more than half of U.S. states—that no worker should be compelled to join or pay dues to a union just to get or keep a job,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), in a statement.
Congressional Democrats are attempting to do the opposite with their introduction of H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act of 2021 (PRO Act). The act would ban right to work laws, which are currently effective in 27 states. The House passed the bill March 9 by a vote of 225-206 largely along party lines, with the support of five Republicans and one Democrat opposed.
Prospects for the PRO Act in the Senate are much dimmer, as it is highly unlikely Democrats could meet the 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster.
NRTWC and many business groups have come out against the PRO Act, citing it as an attack on worker choice.
Mix denounced the PRO Act as “a massive and monstrous bill giving the union bosses sweeping new powers of coercion over every aspect of the workplace, including the destruction of all 27 state Right to Work laws,” and elaborated his concerns in a Detroit News op-ed.
Given recent debates over voting and democratic rights, Democrat lawmakers may be pressed on their proposal to disenfranchise workers in 27 states that enjoy the right to not be forced to pay union dues.