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H.R. 785: The National Right to Work Act – Does it Really have a Chance?

On February 1, 2017, Congressmen Steve King (Republican-Iowa) and Joe Wilson (Republican-South Carolina) introduced the National Right to Work Act (H.R. 785) in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would prevent employers and unions from forcing unionized employees (through the threat of discharge), to join the union and pay union dues, or pay comparable fees, for the union’s role in representing all employees in collective bargaining and workplace disputes.

Essentially, H.R. 785 would override a provision of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which allows the payment of union dues to be a condition of employment at unionized places of business. However, the NLRA also allows states to pass their own laws giving employees freedom to choose whether or not to join a union. To date, twenty-eight states have passed such “right-to-work” laws.

Critics argue right-to-work laws starve unions of dues and non-member fees, weakening their power to effectively bargain for the collective.  Proponents argue such laws give employees the freedom to choose whether to pay dues which promotes job growth and fosters a more business-friendly environment.

A similar bill was introduced by the Congressmen in 2015, but it was never passed. With the new administration, however, the bill could gain traction this time around.  President Trump’s press secretary indicated the President believes in the overall goal of right-to-work legislation, and with Republican leaders in both houses of Congress, there is a very good chance the bill may pass.

The only saving grace for organized labor could be that Trump received more union-member votes than any other Republican in recent history. If the President decides to take on organized labor in this way, he may be in for a dramatic loss of support from union voters across the nation.

If the National Right to Work Act passes and is signed into law by the President, workers from the remaining 22 states currently without their own right-to-work legislation will be given the discretion to join the union and pay dues or not.

Brody and Associates regularly advises employers on union-related matters and provides union-free training.  If we can be of assistance in this area, please contact us at info@brodyandassociates.com or 203.454.0560.