In 2012, the labor stronghold of Michigan passed a right-to-work law, allowing non-members of both public and private unions to refrain from funding unions they don’t want to support. It was a massive development, bringing substantial employee rights to the home state of the United Auto Workers shortly after it seemed like momentum for curbing forced dues might have stalled.
Last Friday, West Virginia legislators (overriding the veto of Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin) kept the pressure on, taking another longtime labor stronghold into the ranks of right-to-work states. Twenty-six states—a majority—and the territory of Guam now prohibit arrangements requiring all employees to pay union fees whether they support the union or not—or even had a say on whether to unionize or not.
The expansion of employee financial freedom into union strongholds like West Virginia and Michigan shows that the public is dissatisfied with the current union boss power structure in workplaces. The system hasn’t been meaningfully reformed since the Truman Administration, when right-to-work laws were first permitted. That’s why forward-thinking labor reforms that go beyond the financial freedoms in right to work have been proposed in the Employee Rights Act (ERA), sponsored by Sen. Orrin Hatch and Rep. Tom Price.
All the reforms in the ERA receive majority support, with most receiving support of over 80 percent of both union and non-union households. West Virginia, Michigan, and Wisconsin show that when it comes to employee rights, the smart move is for legislators and leaders to expand them by curtailing union abuses.