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Right to Work for Less

“Right to work” is the name for a policy designed to take away rights from working people. Backers of right to work laws claim that these laws protect workers against being forced to join a union. The reality is that federal law already makes it illegal to force someone to join a union.

The real purpose of right to work laws is to tilt the balance toward big corporations and further rig the system at the expense of working families. These laws make it harder for working people to form unions and collectively bargain for better wages, benefits and working conditions.

 

Question: Can I be required to be a union member or pay dues to a union?

Answer: You may not be required to be a union member. But, if you do not work in a Right to Work state, you may be required to pay union fees. Below is a list of Right to work for less states.

Alabama | Arizona | Arkansas | Florida | Georgia | Guam | Idaho | Indiana | Iowa | Kansas | Kentucky | Louisiana | Michigan Mississippi | Missouri | Nebraska | Nevada | North Carolina | North Dakota | Oklahoma |South Carolina | South Dakota | Tennessee | Texas | Utah | Virginia | West Virginia | Wisconsin | Wyoming

Employment relations for almost all private sector employees (other than those in the airline and railroad industries) are covered by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

Under the NLRA, you cannot be required to be a member of a union or pay it any monies as a condition of employment unless the collective bargaining agreement between your employer and your union contains a provision requiring all employees to either join the union or pay union fees.

Even if there is such a provision in the agreement, the most that can be required of you is to pay the union fees (generally called an "agency fee.") Most employees are not told by their employer and union that full union membership cannot lawfully be required. In Pattern Makers v. NLRB, 473 U.S. 95 (1985), the United States Supreme Court held that union members have the right to resign their union membership at any time.

If you are not a member, you are still fully covered by the collective bargaining agreement that was negotiated between your employer and the union, and the union is obligated to represent you. Any benefits that are provided to you by your employer pursuant to the collective bargaining agreement (e.g., wages, seniority, vacations, pensions, health insurance)are not affected by your nonmembership. (If the union offers some "members-only" benefits, you might be excluded from receiving those.) If you are not a member, you may not be able to participate in union elections or meetings, vote in collective bargaining ratification elections, or participate in other "internal" union activities. However, you cannot be disciplined by the union for anything you do while not a member.

The Supreme Court, in Communication Workers v. Beck, 487 U.S. 735 (1988), a lawsuit that was supported by the Foundation, ruled that objecting nonmembers cannot be required to pay union dues. The most that nonmembers can be required to pay is an agency fee that equals their share of what the union can prove is its costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment with their employer.