Right to Work Laws: Legislative Background and Empirical Research [December 6, 2012]   [open pdf - 302KB]

"To promote commerce and deter labor unrest, Congress has established laws regulating unionization and collective bargaining (i.e., similar workers negotiating compensation and working conditions as a unit rather than individually). The primary federal legislation that regulates private sector collective bargaining is the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), enacted in 1935. In addition to establishing workers' rights to organize and establishing union election procedures, the NLRA also permits collective bargaining contracts between employers and labor organizations that require all workers covered by the contract to pay dues to the negotiating organization. These contract provisions are known as 'union security agreements'. Since the NLRA was amended by the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947, individual states have had the option of enacting laws that prohibit union security agreements. These state laws supersede the union security provisions of the NLRA and are known as 'right to work' (RTW) laws. As of this writing, 23 states have enacted RTW laws. […] This report is divided into two parts. The first part discusses RTW laws themselves. It provides a brief legislative history on the federal role in the regulation of unions, a summary of the origin and development of RTW laws, a discussion of recent events at the state level, and federal legislation related to RTW. The second part of the report reviews the varied empirical research on the effects of RTW laws. Specifically, it will discuss the mixed evidence indicating relationships between RTW laws and other economic outcomes."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R42575
Public Domain
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