Right to Work laws at the polls and in the courts
Right to Work laws prohibit requirements that workers pay union dues as a condition of employment. Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act authorizes states to enact such laws. The U.S. Supreme Court has twice upheld the constitutionality of state Right to Work laws. Davenport v. Washington Educ. Ass’n, 551 U.S. 177, 184-85 (2007) (public sector); Lincoln Federal Labor Union No. 19129 v. Northwestern Iron & Metal Co., 335 U.S. 525 (1949) (private sector). In the last four years four states—Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and West Virginia—have enacted new Right to Work laws, bringing to twenty-six the total number of states having such laws. Finding themselves on the losing side of recent legislative battles over Right to Work, unions have turned to the courts, challenging all four new Right to Work laws, plus Idaho’s, as unconstitutional on various grounds not explicitly addressed in the Supreme Court’s decisions. However, the litigation has ended in Indiana and Michigan with the challenged laws upheld, and the challenged laws continue to be enforceable in the other three states in which the litigation is still pending. Brief summaries of the cases are available.
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Raymond J. LaJeunesse, Jr. is Vice President & Legal Director at the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, Inc.
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