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What 'Right To Work' Really Means to Workers

Right to work - The Issue That Refuses to Die!
A historical perspective.

Phoenix-like, "right-to-work" measures have again surfaced in state Legislatures,with 25 states now passing RTW legislation. RTW provisions were made possible by amending Section 14 (b) of the Taft-Hartley Act.  Such measures are designed to prohibit employers from negotiating union security clauses by which all who benefit from union bargaining agreements pay their share of the costs involved in the union's legal obligation to represent all workers.

Congressmen Steve King (R-IA) and Joe Wilson (R-SC) have introduced National Right to Work legislation that would make "RtW the law in all fifty states. The bill has not yet been assigned a number. It it passes it will be the death blow to organized labor in the United States Congressman King has also introduced HR 743, the Repeal Davis-Bacon Act which would repeal prevailing wages on Federal projects. This has been federal law since 1931. . 

The words “right-to-work” carry the emotional freight that one attributes to the personal guarantees associated with the Bill of Rights. In reality, RtW has nothing to do with the the idea that one has a right to a job.

The phrase “right-to-work” has been found to be so misleading and confusing, that in 1954 the Supreme Court of Idaho refused to permit the term to be part of the title on an initiative measure proposed to voters in that state.

In 1963, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that workers cannot be legally required to join a union as part of the collective bargaining agreement. In addition (1988), a union cannot require a non-union member to pay for any union activity that is  “unrelated to collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.” Labor organizations, however,  have long viewed those who do not share in the burden of collective representation at the workplace as freeloaders.

​Taft-Hartley or 'Slave Labor Act'

Twelve years after the passage of the National Labor Relations Act (1935) which served as the “Magna Carta” of the American labor movement, the “right-to work” sentiment flowered with the passage of the Taft-Hartley law in 1947. Taft-Hartley restrained the collective strength of workers by, for example, prohibiting sympathy strikes, secondary boycotts, and secondary picketing, banned the closed shop and permitted states to ban the union shop by enacting “right-to-work” legislation. From the day of its enactment, organized labor referred to the Taft-Hartley law it as “The Slave Labor Act, ” and consistently fought for its repeal.


Labor Today is published by the Labor United for Class Struggle (LUCS), a nationwide caucus of union and non-represented workers. Our mission is to unite the working class to fight against the power of transnational capital. Currently only 11% of the U.S. workforce is organized into unions. Most of these workers are employed in the public sector, and are legally denied the right to strike. The most militant of these workers are the postal workers employed by the U.S. Postal Service. For this reason, they are under attack. However, they are not the only ones. 
The attacks on the public sector and its workforce are part of a larger plan developed years ago by Milton Friedman and the University of Chicago School of Business. The plan is referred to as neoliberalism and its main feature is austerity. Reducing the number of federal , state, and municipal employees and cutting pensions and Social Security are the first part of the plan which President Ronald Reagan called "starving the beast". Under this plan, all government services are virtually eliminated with the exception of the military,  and the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative Branches of government. This is also called Social Darwinism, or survival of the fittest. 
Our mission with Labor Today and the LUCS caucus is to unite all of Labor, to give them a voice regardless of industry or type of work without regard to status: union or unrepresented.  We provide assistance to the Walmart workers, the Fight for $15 and a union and other efforts. We are transnational and we support the mission and policies of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU).

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