National Right-to-Work Ban Proposed

Published October 31, 2017

Congressional Democrats are lining up behind two bills in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to repeal right-to-work (RTW) laws in 28 states and prohibit states from passing such laws.

On October 12, Rep. Sander M. Levin (D-MI) became the 43rd member of Congress to sponsor the House version of the Protecting Workers and Improving Labor Standards Act, H.R. 3872, introduced by Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA).

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced S. 1838 on September 18. The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Margaret Wood Hassan (D-NH), and Jeff Markey (D-OR).

The bill would remove states’ authority under the National Labor Relations Act to prohibit involuntary union membership as a condition of employment.

Fighting for Fat Cats

Richard Vedder, a distinguished professor of economics emeritus at Ohio University, says those behind the bill, such as Brown, are working against people’s best interests.

“I think people’s rights have been enhanced by allowing people choice,” Vedder said. “Sherrod Brown wants to decry people’s choices, to protect the union bosses who run these things. Sherrod Brown is an apologist for a group of union bosses, rather than for the workers.”

(Un)truth in Labeling

David Kreutzer, a senior research fellow with The Heritage Foundation’s Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity, says the bill sponsors want to “help” people by taking away their freedom.

“It’s strange that the bill’s sponsors claim that taking away workers’ options is ‘pro-worker,'” Kreutzer said. “Many of the same members say taking away consumers’ choices for appliances and cars is pro-consumer. You have to wonder if they would restrict voters’ choices over candidates and call it ‘voter protection.'”

The only people benefitting from compulsory unionism are the union bosses, Kreutzer says.

“It’s not even ‘pro-organized labor,'” Kreutzer said. “It only helps union leaders who cannot get worker support when the workers have a choice.”

What the People (Don’t) Want

Vedder says national right-to-work repeal is an elitist idea.

“The proposal is going against the grain of what people in our democracy want,” Vedder said.

Right-to-work laws promote individuals’ economic prosperity and states’ economic growth, Vedder says.

“The rate of economic growth is higher over time in a right-to-work state,” Vedder said. “It’s higher if you measure it just by total income. This measure is true if you measure it by income per person, correcting for population.”