Yesterday, Congressman Brad Sherman announced the introduction of dramatic legislation that would eliminate so-called "right-to-work" laws (H.R. 2775), which was applauded by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. Sherman has a strong record of supporting working men and women and earned a 100% rating from the AFL-CIO.
Right-to-work laws require unions to represent non dues-paying employees, thereby undermining the basic premise and promise of union membership and creating free riders -- people who don't pay their fair share. Right-to-work laws create different standards for union membership in different states. This results not only in confusion over the regulation of union membership, but also places a higher cost on worker representation in labor rights states. Right-to-work laws have come to be known as right-to-work-for-less laws, because employees in states with these laws average about $5,333 a year less than workers in labor rights states.
Even a conservative American Enterprise Institute scholar argues that right-to-work laws would violate international labor standards that have been accepted by most of the world for decades. Similarly, in testimony at Congressman Sherman's March 10, 2010 hearing entitled "International Worker Rights, U.S. Foreign Policy and the International Economy", the U.S. Department of State expressed concerns about efforts to undermine the right to organize throughout the world.
"I do not believe that there should be a right to be treated unfairly or to endure unnecessary restrictions. Right-to-work laws strip unions of their legitimate ability to collect dues, even when the worker is covered by a union-negotiated collective bargaining agreement. This forces unions to use their time and members' dues to provide benefits to free riders who are exempt from paying their fair share," said Congressman Brad Sherman. "These laws are harmful to states like California, which allows labor unions to organize, because now we have to compete with the race to the bottom as our companies have to compete with those where the workers would like better wages, working conditions and benefits but are unable to organize to get them."
"We applaud Congressman Sherman for his proposal to ban so-called Right-to-Work laws," said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO. "Right-to-Work is another partisan attack perpetuated by corporate CEOs and their political allies. It undermines the middle class by making it harder for all workers to fight for better wages and benefits, job security, and safer workplaces."
In 1947, Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act stripped the federal government of its role in protecting the American workers' right to freedom of association by allowing states to pass legislation that eliminates the ability of unions to collect dues from their members. The result is a confusing web of labor laws that encourages a race to the bottom.