On January 7, 2017, the ability of unions to force people to pay dues against their wishes died another bit when Kentucky passed Right-to-work legislation. This brings the number of states that allow employees to make a choice about belonging to a union to 27. Another indication of the decreasing influence unions have on politicians.
Right to work versus non-right to work
In a state that is a non-right to work state, when an employee joins a company where the workforce is represented by a union they typically have a 30-day probationary period to see if they are going to be a good employee. If they are indeed good enough to retain, then they are required to join the union, and pay union dues, regardless of what their opinion is of belonging to a union. To preserve the job for which they were just hired, they have to become a member of an organization and pay them dues. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be forced to join a group to which I would not voluntarily belong.
In the right-to-work states the requirement to join a union and pay dues is not there. The employee is not prohibited from joining if they so desire. If the union can make a compelling argument for the value they offer to the new employee and the employee buys into their argument, then more power to them.
Will the trend continue?
As the nature of work changes and as the working population changes it may be likely that more states will pass right-to-work legislation. Millennials, for the most part, have had no experience with union environments and have not have a reason to consider them. White collar work also does not lend itself to being unionized. With little demand for unions why would legislatures be compelled to keep dated legislation?
We will have to wait and see what the what will happen with President Trump’s administration. Although Republican, and on the surface not union friendly, Trump does have a history of courting union support. Only time will tell.
Just for your information, many people not familiar with the terms confuse right-to-work with employment-at-will. The latter is a common-law concept that employment can terminated by either the employee or employer, as long as no law is violated in the process, such as firing someone for being over the age of 40. It has nothing to do with union membership, so be careful in your use of these terms.
Photo credit: Creative Commons
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