The following is from “Right to Work 101,” by the Center for American Progress Action Fund, Feb. 12, 2012.
In states where the law exists, “right-to-work” makes it illegal for workers and employers to negotiate a contract requiring everyone who benefits from a union contract to pay their fair share of the costs of administering it. Right-to-work has nothing to do with people being forced to be union members.
Federal law already guarantees that no one can be forced to be a member of a union, or to pay any amount of dues or fees to a political or social cause they don’t support. What right-to-work laws do is allow some workers to receive a free ride, getting the advantages of a union contract – such as higher wages and benefits and protection against arbitrary discipline – without paying any fee associated with negotiating on these matters.
That’s because the union must represent all workers with the same due diligence regardless of whether they join the union or pay it dues or other fees and a union contract must cover all workers, again regardless of their membership in or financial support for the union. In states without right-to-work laws, workers covered by a union contract can refuse union membership and pay a fee covering only the costs of workplace bargaining rather than the full cost of dues.
The corporate lobbyists who push for right-to-work legislation – such as the Chamber of Commerce and the National Right to Work Committee – want unions to operate under a set of rules that none of them accept for themselves. These lobbyists would never think of serving the interests of companies that refuse to pay dues to their organizations, yet they want unions to do so in order to drain their resources.
Federal law already guarantees every worker who is represented by a union equal and nondiscriminatory representation – meaning unions must provide the same services, vigorous advocacy, and contractual rights and benefits.
This guarantee applies regardless of whether the employee is a union member. So if a non-dues-paying employee encounters a problem at work, the union is required to provide that individual full representation at no charge.