Trent Cotney, Partner, Adams and Reese, LLP
Florida is a right-to-work state. When you hear the phrase right-to-work law, you may not be completely sure what it means. For example, do these laws give employees the right to work or do they give employers rights? Neither one, really.
Right-to-work laws focus on labor unions. They give workers the right to decide if they want to join unions and pay dues. Essentially, the laws prohibit unions and employers from entering agreements that require all workers to pay union fees, because this would be unfair to workers who are not in the union. Currently, these laws are in effect in 27 states. But now, Congress may be calling them into question.
In early September, Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) introduced a Senate bill that would ban all right-to-work laws. In the House of Representatives, Brad Sherman of (Calif.) introduced a similar bill. At this time, there appears to be little chance that the bills will gain traction, but it is interesting to see that the laws are being debated.
What the Supporters Are Saying
Warren, Sherman and the other legislators supporting their bills, believe that unions provide the best protections for workers, ensuring good working conditions and higher wages. In their mind, workers who benefit from unions should pay dues whether they are in the unions or not. Union representatives state that rightto- work laws allow “free riding.” This term means that workers who do not pay membership dues still enjoy the successes of collective bargaining.
“At a time when labor unions are growing in both size [and] popularity and delivering real wins for workers, Democrats are making it clear that we stand in solidarity with workers everywhere, from Starbucks baristas to Google cafeteria workers and everyone in between,” Senator Warren said.
In the meantime, according to a Gallup poll, more than 70 percent of people in the United States approve of unions. This approval rating is higher than it has been in decades. Read more.