Right-to-Work Laws

Right-to-Work Laws

A report published by the Congressional Research Service in December 2012 acknowledged [PDF] the difficulty of accurately assessing right-to-work laws and the economic outcomes of individual states. The report reviewed studies that focused on the effects of right-to-work laws on job growth and wages, and found that the results of the studies are mixed and do not support any one particular theory or trend. Many early-adopter states of right-to-work laws had below average unionization rates, and such laws did not depress unionization. Data, depending on the state, can show that right-to-work laws either increase or decrease hiring or wages.

Twenty-one states passed right-to-work laws, either by statute or state constitutional amendment, before the year 2000. As of 2009, ten were a result of state constitutional amendment. Many of the states currently involved in litigation, ballot initiatives or other legislative endeavors regarding right-to-work laws or constitutional amendments are typically regarded as union strongholds.

Indiana passed a right-to-work law in January 2012 and union members filed suit to block implementation of the law in February 2012. A judge for the US District Court for the Northern District of Indiana dismissed the lawsuit in January 2013, stating that creating a favorable business environment in the state is a legitimate reason for the law. When the suit was later filed in state court, an Indiana Superior Court judge found that law violated the Indiana constitution. The state law required local unions to provide services to individual employees represented by the union without the union being compensated for those services. The Indiana Attorney General plans to appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Governor Rick Snyder of Michigan asked the Supreme Court to assess the constitutionality of the law in January 2013. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a lawsuit against the state of Michigan, asserting that Michigan violated the state’s Open Meetings Act when it prevented the public from entering the capitol building during debate over the right-to-work legislation. Several Michigan unions challenged the right-to-work law directly in February 2013, filing suit in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. A Michigan appeals court later ruled that right-to-work law applies to state employees.

However, several states recently rejected right-to-work initiatives. The New Hampshire House of Representatives rejected a right-to-work bill in February 2013. The New Hampshire House of Representatives and Senate had passed similar legislation in 2011, but it was vetoed by Governor John Lynch. The Maine Senate rejected a right-to-work bill in April 2013, just two days after the Maine House of Representatives also rejected the bill.

The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions published [PDF] a report in March 2012, arguing for state action to pass right-to-work legislation. Several experts suggest that Ohio is poised to become the next right-to-work battleground state. Right-to-work activists are currently collecting signatures to force a ballot initiative in November 2014 to amend the state constitution. The amendment would ban mandatory union membership and prohibit in-state unions from charging non-members dues.