Rand Paul Introduces National Right to Work Act to End Forced Union Dues for Workers

National Right to Work President applauds legislation to end union officials’ government-granted power to force workers to pay dues or be fired

Washington, D.C. (February 19, 2019) 

If S.525, introduced by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, becomes law, workers nationwide will be free both to join and pay dues to a labor union and to resign from and cease bankrolling a union they no longer support. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has introduced the National Right to Work Act (S. 525) in the U.S. Senate.

The one-page bill would end Big Labor’s federally authorized power to force workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC), issued the following statement praising the introduction of the bill:

“We’re extremely pleased that Senator Paul has once again introduced the National Right to Work Act, intensifying a growing debate about Big Labor’s coercive power to keep American workers in chains. This legislation would enshrine the common-sense principle – already enforced in more than half of U.S. states – that no worker should be compelled to join or pay dues to a union just to get or keep a job.

“In an age of legislative overreach, this is one of the shortest bills ever introduced. The National Right to Work Act does not add a single word to federal law, instead simply removing existing language in the National Labor Relations Act and Railway Labor Act that gives union officials the power to extract dues from nonunion workers as a condition of employment.”

The bill introduced by Senator Rand is part of a two-pronged strategy which consists of building support in Washington for the National Right to Work Act, while at the same time mobilizing opponents of forced unionism to pass their own state Right to Work laws.

At the federal level, although 27 states have enacted their own Right to Work laws, and the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act explicitly allows them to do so, the authorization for forcing workers to pay union dues actually comes from two federal laws – the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and the Railway Labor Act (RLA). The RLA even blocks Right to Work laws from protecting workers in the railroad and airline industry, meaning thousands of workers can be fired for refusing to pay union dues or fees despite working in a Right to Work state.

The National Right to Work Act amends both laws, removing the forced-dues provisions and thereby restoring employees’ absolute right to refrain from participating in and funding a union they don’t want.

Growing Support for Right to Work

In building support for the National Right to Work Act, the Committee has been engaged in a multi-year effort. In 2009-10 the National Right to Work Committee’s top priority was blocking the union bosses’ so-called “Card Check” bill, meaning the Right to Work Bill was given lower priority, with only 10 cosponsors.

But in subsequent Congresses, the number of House and Senate cosponsors increased dramatically. In the 112th Congress there were 122 co-sponsors, and the number has continued to increase. The Committee recruited 144 cosponsors in the 113th Congress, 156 in the 114th Congress, and 159 in the 115th Congress.

Of course, in recent years the National Right to Work Committee’s mission to pass more state Right to Work laws has also found new strength.

In fact, five states have enacted Right to Work laws since 2012.

Right to Work’s recent expansion was kick-started in February 2012 in Indiana, when then-Governor Mitch Daniels signed the Indiana Right to Work Bill into law. The National Right to Work Committee had specifically targeted Indiana, viewing it as the key to spreading Right to Work throughout the Midwest.

“We knew Indiana’s neighbors would fear being left behind in their attempts to attract new jobs, because companies and entrepreneurs prefer to create jobs in Right to Work states, where their well-treated employees would be less likely to be targeted by Big Labor, because workers there cannot be compelled to fund union officials’ activities,” commented Mr. Mix.

And the strategy appears to have worked. Less than a year after passage of Indiana’s Right to Work Law, Michigan, which many people saw as the “home turf” of organized labor, passed Right to Work legislation of its own.

Wisconsin became the 25th Right to Work state in 2015 and West Virginia became the 26th in 2016. In 2017 Kentucky became the 27th Right to Work state.

In addition, in the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME case the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government employees have Right to Work protections under the First Amendment. The National Right to Work Act seeks to ensure that all private sector workers have the same freedom to decide whether or not to financially support union activities.

Reasons for Progress of Right to Work

Mr. Mix says the recent string of victories, as well as increasing support in Congress for the National Right to Work Act, is due to two factors: Right to Work’s economic impact, and its popularity.

“The politicians are beginning to figure out what most Americans already knew: Right to Work is not only sound public policy, but it’s also good politics.

“Voluntary association is a quintessential American ideal, and the case for Right to Work has always rested on the principles of employee freedom, but passage of a National Right to Work law will also pay economic dividends. Studies demonstrate that workers in Right to Work states enjoy greater private sector job growth and higher disposable incomes than their counterparts in states without Right to Work protections.

“The Right to Work principle is also popular with the public. Polls consistently show that 80 percent of Americans and union members support the principle of voluntary unionism, and the last several elections have provided plenty of evidence to back it up. Politicians that vote for and campaign on Right to Work have been winning. Proponents of forced unionism have been losing.”

But Mr. Mix and the National Right to Work Committee believe now is the time to solve the problem of forced unionism at its roots, in federal law.

“A National Right to Work Act enshrines worker freedom while providing significant economic benefits for workers,” declared Mr. Mix. “The National Right to Work Committee is mobilizing its 2.8 million members to call on their representatives and senators to support the National Right to Work Act.”

The national bill has been introduced over the last several Congresses, with increasing levels of support and public interest. Record numbers of representatives and senators now support the legislation, and President Donald Trump has promised to sign it.