Right-To-Work Law Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Right-To-Work Law, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Right-To-Work Law?

State labor law that permits someone to determine for himself/herself whether or not to join a labor union. The law avoids employers from making union membership a condition of employment.

History and Meaning of Right-To-Work Law

The term "Right-To-Work Law" refers to state-level labor laws that allow workers the right to decide whether or not to join a labor union in their workplace, without being compelled to. This law prohibits employers from making union membership a prerequisite for employment or from requiring employees to pay any fees to a union as a condition of continued employment.

The idea behind the Right-To-Work Law traces back to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which guaranteed the right of workers to form and join labor unions, but did not compel them to do so. Moreover, after the enactment of the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, states were allowed to pass their Right-To-Work laws, which weakened the bargaining power of labor unions.

Currently, 27 states have implemented Right-To-Work Laws, which are seen by employers as a way to control costs and increase flexibility in their workforce. On the other hand, labor unions view them as a threat to their financial stability and bargaining power.

Examples of Right-To-Work Law

  1. In Texas, the Right-To-Work Law was added to the state's constitution in 1947 and prevents employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment.
  2. Michigan lawmakers in 2012 passed a Right-To-Work Law, amid protests and legal challenges from unions.
  3. In 2017, Kentucky became the 27th state to implement the Right-To-Work Law.
  4. Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb signed a Right-To-Work Bill into law in 2021.
  5. Wisconsin was the 25th state to adopt a Right-To-Work Law in 2015.

Legal Terms Similar to Right-To-Work Law

  1. Closed Shop - An agreement between employers and labor unions where the employer agrees to hire only union workers.
  2. Union Security Agreement - A collective bargaining agreement between an employer and a union that requires employees to become and remain members of the union.
  3. Yellow Dog Contract - A contract that requires employees to agree, as a condition of employment, not to join a union.