The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 13, 2017

RTW laws often handicap union organizing drives

By The Building Tradesman

The presence of a right-to-work law usually has had a chilling effect on union organizing drives, with unions filing one-third fewer election petitions in the nation's 28 right-to-work states than in the others.

So says an August report by the Bloomberg-BNA Union Labor Report Newsletter, which said the new Republican majority installed by President Trump on the National Labor Relations Board will be "moving to put a pro-business stamp on federal labor policy, but shifts at the state level already seem to be making it tougher for unions to organize in many parts of the country."

The report said that union organizers in right-to-work states - especially those in states that have had RTW laws for many decades - have to be "pickier" about the workforces they try to organize, because they can't afford to throw resources at likely low-reward efforts. The total number of union organizing petitions filed nationwide has dropped by about 20 percent over the last decade, with most of those petitions being filed in non-RTW states.

"The data show that right-to-work laws may already be weighing heavily on labor groups," Bloomberg-BNA says, "with fewer organizing 
campaigns in (RTW) states that ban union security clauses. That may also be a sign of things to come for public sector unions, which aren't covered by the same laws but are facing a Supreme Court battle that could mean the end of similar 'fair share' fees."

That reference was to the Janus v AFSCME Council 31 case, which will be taken up this term by the U.S. Supreme Court. It could lead to a virtual national right-to-work law for public sector unions (see related article).

Michigan, where the Republican Legislature adopted a right-to-work law in December 2012 but which has long tradition of labor union strength, the numbers are better compared to other RTW states. The report said the number of union organizing election petitions in Michigan in 2016 was down only 4 percent compared to 2012.