GOP Renews Push for Right to Work

National bill aims to bar mandatory unionism

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May 8, 2019

Rep. Joe Wilson (R., S.C.) announced the introduction of the National Right to Work Act on Wednesday. The bill would prohibit companies from requiring workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Wilson called right to work "crucial" to South Carolina's economic development in recent years, pointing to the expansion of manufacturing employment, which has increased by 25 percent since 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"Every worker should have the power to decide whether or not to negotiate for themselves with their employer," Wilson said at a press conference.

Twenty-seven states have already adopted right to work legislation, meaning that the federal law would only affect residents in 23 states, many of which are controlled by Democrats. The National Labor Relations Act made clear that states are within their rights to adopt right to work policies, but Wilson said Congress erred when it made monopoly unionism the default position, rather than creating an opt-in system.

"Congress created the problem—it is the responsibility of Congress to correct it," he said. "The National Right to Work Act does that simply by listening to the majority of American workers and erasing the automatic dues clauses in federal statute."

Wilson was joined by former Southwest flight attendant Charlene Carter, who was fired from her job shortly after criticizing union leadership for its pro-abortion advocacy. She is now suing the company and her union for discriminating against her religious views. She said the dispute would not have come about if she was not forced to subsidize the union's political views, such as its support for the 2018 Women's March.

"I am forced ... the day that I graduated from training to sign on the dotted line to become a union member—that's the only way I can be a flight attendant," she said. "This bill would protect people like me."

Carter's suit is now in discovery. She is receiving representation from the National Right to Work Foundation, which has worked to introduce national legislation for many years. Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement that the legislation would address a "growing debate about Big Labor's coercive power."

That debate has mostly taken place in statehouses across the country and before the judiciary. Five states have enacted right to work since 2012, while Missouri passed the bill before voters overturned it in a 2018 ballot initiative. In June, the Supreme Court ruled that government agencies could not force workers to pay public sector unions as a condition of employment.

Mix said the bill would extend that right to employees in the private sector.

"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," he said in a statement.

Wilson said the Act has already received more than 50 co-sponsors. A similar bill was introduced in the GOP-controlled Senate in February.