What is "Right-to-Work?"
The crux of any right-to-work law is the prohibition of "fair share fees," also known as "agency fees," which unions collect from non-members for services. Despite not being able to collect fair share fees, unions that operate in "right-to-work" states still have to represent and provide services to non-members, and even can be sued by non-members if they believe they are not being represented adequately.
While proponents of right-to-work tout ideological principles such as "freedom in the workplace," right-to-work is a thinly-veiled union-busting tool that violates workplace democracy. Without fair share, it is extremely difficult for unions to represent their members and participate in the political process.
What are the Implications of "Right-to-Work?"
It is important to understand that right-to-work has far-reaching implications for all workers, not just union members. All workers in right-to-work states make, on average, $535 less per month than workers in free bargaining states. In addition, right-to-work states have higher poverty rates, more workplace fatalities, and have fewer people with health benefits.
When the unions that helped build worker protections and the middle class disappear, those protections and the middle class start to disappear with them.
Is "Right-to-Work" Being Proposed in Ohio?
When Ohio voters overwhelmingly repealed the anti-union legislation Senate Bill 5 by a vote of 63% to 37% in November 2011, it sent a strong message that Ohioans will not tolerate attacks on workers. Nevertheless, we have seen "right-to-work" bills introduced since then.
Most recently, Rep. John Becker (R-Union Twp) introduced a "right-to-work" bill for the public sector. The legislation, House Bill 583, would allow non-members of a public employee union to "opt-out" of the union, and the union would not be required to represent those workers. Currently, non-members have to be represented by the union and pay a "fair share fee" to the union for contract enforcement.
Rep. Becker is using these tactics in an attempt to inoculate against the "free rider" argument that unions have made for many years against "RTW" -- that non-members should pay a fee for the services and benefits they receive from the union. However, the language in this bill opens up a whole host of other problems.
For instance, employers would have to negotiate individual employment contracts with each non-member. Employers could use this as a "divide and conquer" tool; that is, give better wages, benefits, and other perks to non-members in the short-term to peel off members from the union.
"RTW" bills in every form have been thinly-veiled union-busting tools, and HB 583 is no different.
Additionally, earlier in the Ohio General Assembly's session, a "RTW" bill for the private sector (HB 377) was introduced. It has received one hearing but no further legislative action.
Academe Blog Posts on "Right-to-Work:
Right to Work is an Insult to Intelligence by Martin Kich
Right to Work is an Insult to Intelligence, Addendum by Martin Kich
Right to Work Isn't Going Away, At Least for the Moment by Martin Kich