Right-to-Work Law

Edited by Stan Greer of the National Institute for Labor Research and Glenn Brackett, President of the NH AFL-CIO

In Brief:

  • Under right-to-work laws, collective bargaining agreements cannot require employees to join or pay fees to a union. Union membership, dues, and fees become voluntary.
  • New Hampshire has considered right-to-work many times, but a bill has never passed.
  • Right-to-work provisions exist in 28 states.
  • Supporters say states with right-to-work laws furnish workers with more job entry and advancement opportunities than those that don’t have them, and that right-to-work also fosters faster pay growth as employers compete with one another for good workers.
  • Opponents say right-to-work measures are a form of union-busting that will impede the ability of workers to collectively bargain for higher wages and better conditions.

Issue Facts:

Under right-to-work, workers can still join or form unions, but it becomes illegal for unions to require workers to join in order to continue working in a “union shop.” Right-to-work laws also ban requiring non-members to pay dues or other fees for union bargaining activities.

Law in NH

New Hampshire does not currently have a right-to-work law.

The only state laws regarding union membership relate solely to public employees such as teachers, firemen, police officers and other town or state workers. The New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Act explicitly gives these workers the right to unionize and bargain collectively with public employers. Workers in unionized public agencies who do not wish to join the union may not represent themselves, and may be compelled to pay agency fees as a condition of employment. Agency fees are paid to the union to cover the costs of collective bargaining and representation.

For other workers in New Hampshire, federal law – specifically the provisions in the National Labor Relations Act – regulates labor unions.

History

The right-to-work issue has frequently been debated in New Hampshire since the 1980s.

It passed the Legislature in 2011; it was vetoed by then Gov. John Lynch, a Democrat, and his veto was upheld.

Right-to-work measures were tabled by the state Senate in 2012 and defeated in the House in 2013.

Maggie Hassan, Democratic governor 2013-2017, also opposed to right-to-work. She vetoed a measure in 2016. The veto was challenged but upheld.

The state’s current Republican governor, Christopher Sununu, included right-to-work as part of his political agenda. But, even with a Republican majority in both the House and Senate, it failed in 2017 when it was defeated in the House.

Federal law

The federal Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 prohibited “closed shops.” It determined that full union membership could not be used as a condition of employment.

However, federal law leaves it up to states whether or not they wish to allow “agency shops”, or to ban them by passing a right-to-work law. In agency shops, formal union membership isn’t required of employees, but even non-members have to pay “agency fees” or “fair share fees”, which are intended to cover the costs of collective bargaining and representation. Under most circumstances, these fees should be less than full union dues, and workers have a right to know the basis for how the reduced amount is calculated.  

If nonmembers explicitly object to the use of their fees for a union's political activities, they cannot be compelled to pay for expenses outside of the costs of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment.

Workers with a bona-fide religious objection may also opt out of paying union dues or fees altogether. In this case, the amount the worker would normally pay in membership dues can instead be donated to a charity acceptable to both the worker and the union.

There is proposed legislation on Capitol Hill called the National Right to Work Bill. This bill would make “agency shops” illegal on the federal level.

Law in other states/alternatives

Currently, 28 states have right-to-work laws. All have a similar intent: That employees in unionized workplaces may not be compelled to join a union, nor be compelled to pay for any union activities, including bargaining activities.

No state in New England has a right-to-work law.

Related issues

Public Employee Contract Revisions

Minimum Wage

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Stan Greer of the National Institute for Labor Relations Research

 “New Hampshire should adopt a right-to-work law.”

  • A New Hampshire right-to-work law would empower individual workers to decide for themselves whether or not they want to join or financially support a union.
  • A recent survey of CEOs by Chief Executive magazine found that 57% prefer to hire in right-to-work states, with an additional 21% saying they would only hire in right-to-work states. Overall, from 2006-2016 the percentage growth in employment in right-to-work states was more than double the aggregate growth for forced-unionism states and nearly triple New Hampshire’s growth.
  • New Hampshire suffered a 15.2% decline -- the third worst in the nation -- in its peak-earning year population (aged 35-54) from 2005 to 2015. The most plausible explanation for this trend is that breadwinners and entrepreneurs are fleeing New Hampshire in support of better opportunities elsewhere.
  • In 2016, the overall cost of housing, food, energy, medical care, and other necessities for residents of the Granite State was 19.2% above the national average. That same year, right-to-work states had a population-weighted aggregate cost of living 6.5% below the national average.
  • Once the combined total compensation (cash pay and benefits) earned by private-sector employees is adjusted for cost of living, it averaged $46,057 per employee in right-to-work states in 2015.  That’s nearly $6000 higher than the New Hampshire average, and nearly $1600 higher than the overall forced-unionism state average.
  • Once it adopts a right-to-work law, New Hampshire will be the first state in the Northeast to ban compulsory unionism, and will become a magnet for the region’s entrepreneurs, business owners, and workers seeking to improve their living standards
  • In a November 2015 brief to the U.S. Supreme Court defending forced-unionism contracts in the government sector, then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris admitted that, under laws authorizing “exclusive” union bargaining, union officials “do have substantial latitude to advance bargaining positions that . . . run counter to the economic interests of some employees.”
  • Under multiple federal and state statutes governing the workplace, unions may become, as one scholar has written, “‘exclusive’ (monopoly) bargaining agents of all workers in the unit, whether individuals agree or not. Individuals are even forbidden to represent themselves.”  When the law prohibits individual employees from representing themselves, and compels them to accept Big Labor “representation” that may well hurt them economically, to force them to bankroll the union that is being foisted on them is to pour salt in their wounds.

"Against" Position

By Glenn Brackett, President of the NH AFL-CIO

“New Hampshire should not adopt a right-to-work law.”

  • When you compare right-to-work states to free bargaining states the differences are stark: the average worker makes less per year, they have higher rates of people lacking health insurance, spend less on education systems for children, the poverty rate is higher, and the risk of workplace death is higher.
  • Hourly wages in non-right-to-work states are 3.2% higher on average than in right-to-work states, even after controlling for variables such as demographics and cost of living. New Hampshire's unemployment rate is among the lowest in the country, and in early 2017 the state had more than 20,000 unfilled job vacancies. To attract businesses, we need to attract and retain an educated, qualified workforce, and passing right-to-work in New Hampshire--a move associated with lower wages--is unlikely to encourage workers to stay or move here.
  • Right-to-work will strike a blow against the ability of workers to collectively negotiate for higher safety standards, better training, and fair wages and health benefits. This lowers standards across the board, impacting both union and non-union members alike.
  • New Hampshire struggles to keep its youth from moving out-of-state to find work because we lack attractive job opportunities. Policies that have been correlated with lower wages, higher workplace injuries and increased poverty won’t encourage them to stay.
  • Right-to-work is an attack on working families by special interests seeking to lower wages for everyone and undermine worker protections. 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Right-to-Work bill that prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

Killed in the House

Requires state employers to report the ratio of the number of employees paying union dues to the total number of employees.

Killed in the House

Right-to-work bill that prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

In Committee

Prohibits a public employer from withholding union dues from a public employee's wages.

Interim Study

Permits an employee who is not a member of a union, but who is required to pay fees to a union, to opt to have such fees contributed to a charitable organization.

Killed in the House

Right-to-Work bill that prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

Tabled in the Senate

Right-to-Work bill that prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

Tabled in the Senate

Right-to-Work bill that prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

Killed in the Senate

Right-to-Work bill that prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

Killed in the House

Right-to-Work bill that prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

Tabled in the Senate

Right-to-Work bill that prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

Vetoed by Governor

Right-to-Work bill that prohibits collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union.

Should NH pass right-to-work legislation?

FOR
REPRESENTATIVES

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AGAINST
REPRESENTATIVES

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Comments

Laverne MacInnis
- Manchester

Wed, 02/24/2016 - 5:06pm

Help! The Manchester Education Association union is trying to extort an agency fee from me. I belonged to their union for years and all they did was soak me for money. They never did a thing for me - in fact every contract they've inked in the years I've worked for this district has been worse than the last one. I quit several years ago. This last contract is the worst and they are demanding an agency fee from me. I have claimed conscientious objector status and they are telling me I can't do that and are threatening to take me to court. Can someone please help me deal with these complete low lifes who only want the dues to fund their overpriced excursions to blowout parties in Washington DC and other parts of the country where they trade sob stories about how hard they work for the membership?

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Issue Status

SB 11, the Senate's right-to-work bill, passed in a party-line vote in the upper chamber in January and went to the House where it was defeated, despite the Republican majority and despite it being near the top of the GOP legislative agenda for the year. See Legislative History elsewhere on this page for details. 
 

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