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Celebrating the past and future of right to work

Jul 1, 2022 by AFP

June 23rd marked the 75th anniversary of the Taft-Hartley Act, an important piece of legislation that gave birth to right to work by allowing states to pass laws permitting workers the freedom to decide for themselves whether they want to join a union and pay dues.

Since then, 27 states grant right-to-work laws and granted millions of workers the freedom to decide for themselves what working conditions fit best for them.

Americans for Prosperity, working with our local grassroots activists, has been leading this fight for over a decade and has contributed to major victories for worker freedoms in Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

But millions of workers are still trapped in ineffective unions that fail to represent their actual interests. That is why AFP is continuing the fight for worker freedom in places like New Hampshire and Missouri.

At its core, right to work is about upholding the essential constitutional right to freedom of association as guaranteed in the First Amendment. But of course, it has numerous implications beyond that.

More than seven decades later, it’s clear right to work protects worker freedom

After 75 years, right to work has served as something of a long-term natural experiment to compare states that protect labor freedom and states that don’t. And it is safe to say that the results are unequivocal at this point.

States with right to work score much better on numerous economic factors than states that force workers into unions:

  • Over twice as much job growth
  • Over nine percent growth in manufacturing employment since 2011 compared to negative growth in forced unionization states
  • Higher levels of disposable income
  • Positive versus negative population growth
  • Fewer residents on welfare

The evidence is clear that right to work leads to better outcomes for workers and businesses alike, with more prosperity and growth benefiting all of society.

Yet, the special interests that benefit from forced unionization and the billions of dollars in dues that flow from it are obviously not happy about this.

What happens when right to work enables workers to decide for themselves whether to join a union

As workers have been given the freedom to choose for themselves, labor union membership has plummeted.

In the 1950s, around one in three workers were in a union, but now the number has dropped to just above 10 percent.

Not wanting to lose out on hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign contributions, Democratic leaders have opposed worker freedom in an attempt to crush right to work and make it easier to corral workers into unions, whether they like it or not, in the form of the PRO Act.

The PRO Act, which was passed by the House in 2021, is the latest attempt to revive an outdated, 20th century labor model to try and herd workers back into unions where they will be forking over dues.

Among its many provisions, it would violate worker’s freedom of association, ban right to work, and overturn right-to-work laws in 27 states that have chosen to defend worker freedom.

It also contains numerous other provisions that would make it easier to railroad through unionization at workplaces by undermining the secret ballot and allowing unions to redo elections that they lost.

Additionally, the PRO Act would make it easier to force contractors and freelancers, the number of which has flourished under the new gig economy, to be classified as regular employees so they can be unionized.

This would obviously trample underfoot the freedom and flexibility that freelancers find so important, as well as likely lead to depressed wages and less work opportunities as well.

Right to work and worker freedom have come a long way in 75 years

Fortunately, after 75 years of success, it seems that right to work isn’t going anywhere. The PRO Act has been dead in the water for over a year and right to work’s benefits are undeniable. As the American economy continues to become more dynamic the flexibility that comes with worker freedom is going to be more important than ever.

AFP is proud of our role in defending and expanding this essential freedom and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead, both by expanding right to work and by supporting other important legislation like the Employee Rights Act that expands choice for workers and employers alike.

The movement for worker freedom has come a long way in 75 years, and it is important to recognize and celebrate these successes as we look to the future at the victories yet to come.

Learn more about AFP’s agenda to expand worker freedom and flexibility.