What Does A Right To Work State Mean?

By William Finch on February 26, 2010, 7:00 am Posted in Finance News

In 1947 Congress passed the Taft-Hartley Act that outlawed the “closed shop” practice enforced by many unions. The “closed shop” meant that when a workplace had been unionized any employee who did not join that union could be terminated. “Union shop” rules stipulated that new employees must also join the union or at least pay the dues.

In one section of the Taft-Hartley Act it states that states have jurisdiction over whether to enforce the union rules or to be a right-to-work state. In a right-to-work state no employee can be forced to join a union.

Right To Work States

Twenty-two states have right-to-work clauses. In these states employees do not have to fear retribution from unions for not joining or fear losing their jobs. There are pros and cons on working in this type of state. One major pro is not being forced to join a union. One major con is the lack of unionized power that can push for great changes in the work force.

The states with right-to-work laws include Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming.

What This Mean For You

Depending on which state you live in you could be subject to unionized workforces. In the non- right-to-work states unions can invade a workplace and force all the employees to join the union or be terminated. In this situation there is little an employee can do to avoid joining the union short of finding another job.


There is a prevalent fear among employers and employees in these states becasue there is no protection from unionization. However, in companies where workers are underpaid and unrepresented unionization can be a blessing. In this situation a union can fight for the rights of the workers and create a better working environment.

20 Responses to “What Does A Right To Work State Mean?”

  1. Daniel Vello says:

    If your union has no work for you after 6 months can you get a non union job in your profession to feed your family and make ends meet.


  2. John says:

    question for you, I live in oklahoma and I had a boss state that we are in a right to work state and that he can fire me for any reason at all. Is this true or does it only apply to not forcing people to join a union.

  3. Schrödinger says:

    John, that is not “Right-to-Work”. That’s called “Employment At-Will”. Different animal. A lot of folks get those terms confused. RTW means that you can’t be forced to join a union or pay dues in order to work. At-Will means that a boss can fire you for any reason except those areas that are “protected”, such as age, gender, race, etc.

  4. todaba says:

    John, your boss has “right to work state” confused with “at will” state. In a right to work state it means you don’t have to join a union to work in a company even if it’s union organized. An “at will” state means you work at will and your employer can let you go for any reason or no reason unless you have a written contract with them. They can fire you “at will”.

  5. Joey says:

    RTW means that if your on a job ( construction for exc.) a contractor can hire any unskilled Jo blo they want that has no training that could potentially get you killed on the job. Also bringing work conditions down allowing contractors to neglect and or lose your job to some illegals that will do it for pennies. people think it’s all about paying dues. It’s more about having someone or group of people looking out for us the workers in the best way they can. If there were no unions their would be more poverty then there is now. Causing lower pay across state. Statistics prove all RTW states show no improvement in work. Most if not all show lower pay higher incidents/job injuries and higher unemployment. Don’t take what I say……research yourself the answers are easily available.

  6. Sherry says:

    Thank you Joey for correctly answering! I can’t believe the MISinformation that is on the web about RTW. Ignorance is WHY it even exists. I would like to add that also in a RTW state (such as Texas) if you work in a shop (or on a job) that is union, but you choose not to join (I can’t understand why you wouldn’t) you still get representation from the union(FREE OF CHARGE-we have a name for this). Look, don’t be fooled! The union is on your side- You can thatn the unions of this nation for many things…to name a few- 40 hour work week, overtime pay for more than that,safe working environments, minimum wage (I know its low, but imagine what it would be IF their wasn’t a minimum- I could go on and on! Educate yourself people! Union YES :-)

  7. Bayou boy says:

    I live in Louisiana and we are a at will and a RTW state and I can tell you it sucks you have no chance at work I work at Dow in plaquemine Louisiana and they kick us around like we are a piece of trash and they tell us if you don’t like it hit the gate and you have no chance there is no unions and you are alone you put up with it are leave if we had some one to go to this wouldn’t happen but we don’t they can take your pay down and they have done it and we could not do a damn thing about it so if you do live in a state that has unions it would be in tour best intrest to check into it I promise you won’t be making a mistake !!!!!!!!!!

  8. Jennifer says:

    Work ethic goes a long way with any company. Maybe you should try working hard at Dow and then you wouldn’t be treated like the lazy piece of trash that you are. I wouldn’t want anyone telling me I had to pay union fees to work for a company. So much for a “free country”.

  9. Jessica says:

    “Free Country” means find another company if you don’t want to work for one that is unionized. Your ignorance makes me sick as you judge someone else’s work ethic…someone that you don’t even know. Shame on you!!!

  10. Casey says:

    Work ethic goes only so far. What happen if you get hurt? Or piss off a bosses relative?
    A few things to think about. When the big lay off hit a couplr of years age; many people were layed off. Whan the call back happened who was left in the unemployment line? The 50 plus and those who were hurting(back,neck). Wrk ethic gets you so far. Please do not get sick or injured or you could be in that unemployment line to. Thats what union stop! Unfare treatment. I work hard and am a union steward. In our shop we do not cover up lazy people you are held to a standard. Much higher one too.

  11. Marshall Wright says:

    Most people in America have a shallow belief in what truth is. Employee or employer, I have learned that neither can be trusted. Most likely some of you people who are complaining about employment injustice are guilty of mistreating past employees you have worked with. Everyone seems to be running around in circles trying to stay ahead of the other person so as not to be the one who gets the pink slip. There is no commitment from, or towards anyone anymore. The best that you can do is keep moving forward and get what you can and not look back. You have to make people prove that they can be trusted. It is the cost of war that has caused a strain on the American economy. As a result our Government has become distracted financially. The cost of these wars has created the deficit to climb beyond reason and will inevitably force America to declare bankruptcy on the world. The British Empire accumulated a huge debt from the French and Indian Wars. To pay for this debt they taxed the colonies far beyond what justice would endorse. As a result the colonies declared independence and the Revolutionary War began. In the end England paid an even higher price.

  12. G says:

    Your labor is a commodity. No more, no less. As long as you have a skill that is in demand you will find employment. The market decides the value of said skill. If that skill is no longer desired, then for any reason, an employer should have the right to terminate the relationship. Conversely, if an employer does not meet the employees expectations of compensation, benefits or working conditions. The employee may exorcise that same right. This is how Capitalism works.

  13. deo says:

    I just want my job to be tolerable and companies
    don’t really do anything they are not made to do by law for their employees. You gotta be kidding me if you think many companies really wont try to push you to do more than they are really compensating you for. They higher lazy people and people who work hard. Then they dump the work load on the hard worker and punish everyone for the actions of the lazy employees and managers. Its frustrating everyone is cutting each other’s throat. I have tried switching jobs and companies many times and its the same every where you go.

  14. Angela says:

    Wow… This article is incredibly biased.

  15. John says:

    I work for a major airline, and we are a part of a union. My union sends money from my dues to support a political party, of which I do not support. I live in a right to work state and my union is in a rtw state. I would like to make sure that my union dues do not go to support any political party. How does the beck law apply to me, and how can I use it to make sure I am now longer supporting an opposing political party via my union wages? I also read something about an exception with airline workers…

  16. John says:

    This article is brief and to the point!
    Interesting enough, but not surprising, in 2009 obama passed a law making it not necessary for unions to disclose an individuals Beck rights…

    Can we survive another 4 years?

  17. Jon says:

    As I see it, a “right to work state” should be renamed: “right to fire state”
    Even as much as our Gov’t like to get into our lives, they stay away from this one. Try to find help in a “right to fire state”….you won’t find any

  18. glenn says:

    I live and work in Ontario Canada as a carpenter on a union site.The union dues i pay are equal and equivalent to the hold back that a labour agency would make of my work.
    I am protected by the union in the fact that the company agreed to not hire unskilled persons to do my job.They agreed to this to get highly skilled workers
    My union dues pay for an administrator to look after my pension my health benefits my vacation pay and the state of the art training in safety and new technologies with this i can retire at age sixty and live well
    In a Right to work state can you do this
    Furthermore my pension funds invest in companies that work and produce things in north america not of shore maybe keeping you working.
    This is what is known as ethical investing

  19. Paul says:

    I have worked for a union and many non-union companies. I live in a Right to Work and At-will state, Florida. I have to say, I liked working in the union companies better. No crazy rules and if you had a bad manager who made up crazy rules, you could grieve it and get some sanity back into the work place. One manager at AT&T told me I had to have a car and I wasn’t allowed to commute by bike to work. If it wasn’t for the union, I would have had to follow his idiotic rule to keep my job even though I lived in a city that had buses and commuter trains. I only lived 5 miles from the office. My job did not require me to travel during the workday, there was no reason for me to own a car. Unions protect you from nutjobs as well as negotiating a reasonable salary. On a national scale our pay as designers was average for our position, not the 30-40 dollars an hour that anti-union advocates claim companies are being forced to pay. My union dues were only $36 a month, 1% of my pay, well worth it in my opinion.

  20. Glenn Kitchen says:

    so Michigan has just gone right to work.Michigan is a big auto manufacturing state.in other right to work states the governments are giving auto com’s.tax breaks free land free city services and in many places low interest rates.(like they really need it).The thing with Michigan the taxpayers can not afford to give away these things anymore so they get RTW.sure the car co’s are allready union but the parts and feeder plants are not so and are targeted by this RTW.So what next offshore workers who pay no taxes taking the jobs.Can we afford to give way our wages anymore

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