The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 08, 2019

Nagging national right-to-work law pops up in Congress, again

By The Building Tradesman

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A national right-to-work bill has been re-introduced in Congress.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kent.) and 16 co-sponsors introduced the bill as S. 525, which would "preserve and protect the free choice of individual employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations or to refrain from such activities." 

The bill didn't mention anything about the fact that it would protect the free choice of individual employees to join labor organizations, and enjoy the benefits - without also paying for the privilege in the form of union dues.

After a right-to-work bill was introduced in Congress in 2017, the White House echoed what President Donald Trump said on the campaign trail: he would sign a nationwide RTW bill. "The president believes in right to work. He wants to give workers and companies the flexibility to do what’s in the best interest for job creators. Obviously, the vice president has been a champion of this as well,” the White House said in a statement. Pence supported passage of Indiana's right-to-work law in 2012. The Hoosier state, along with Michigan, are two states among 27 with statewide RTW laws.

“The National Right to Work Act stands up for all American workers by ensuring their ability to choose to refrain from joining or paying dues to a union as a condition for employment. It respects their fundamental right to freedom of association, and it is time for the federal government to follow the lead of Kentucky and other states by passing Right to Work,” Paul said in a statement.

University of California-Berkley Professor Robert Reich, Labor Secretary in the Clinton Administration, said "right to work sounds harmless, but it's not. The average worker in RTW states makes 12.2 percent less than those in non-RTW states. People in RTW states are less likely to be insured and pay more out of pocket for insurance. Right to work states have higher poverty, higher infant mortality, and higher workplace fatalities. So why do right-to-work laws hurt workers in all these ways? Because these laws destroy unions. That's their purpose."

The introduction of the national RTW law legislation in 2017 did not gain traction, with a Democratic filibuster sure to stop it dead in its tracks. It also has zero chance this year with a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats - but the legislation serves as a reminder that it's always lurking in the background. RTW supporters got most of what they wanted last year when the U.S. Supreme Court approved the Janus decision, which essentially made all U.S. public employees subject to RTW laws. 

Paul's legislation would make the nation's private workforce subject to RTW, too.