[JURIST] The Wisconsin Senate [official website] on Wednesday approved Senate Bill 44 [text], commonly known as the right-to-work bill. In general, the legislation provides that employees cannot be required to join a labor organization. Without financial support, unions are limited in their ability to bargain and recruit new members. Wisconsin would be the twenty-fifth state to enact a right-to-work law, giving the trend towards enacting right-to-work laws momentum throughout the country. Many individuals are concerned for what this will mean for workers’ wages, benefits and other assistance that unions offer to their members. Individuals that oppose the laws are concerned that worker training and safety could be limited with the restrictions placed on funding.
Twenty-one states passed right-to-work laws [JURIST backgrounder], either by statute or state constitutional amendment, before the year 2000. As of 2009, 10 were a result of state constitutional amendment. 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.