Volume 36, Issue 2 (Spring 2014)
This Note underscores that the current judicial interpretation of Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is inconsistent to its core policy of encouraging collective bargaining. Section 14(b), as currently interpreted, allows states to enact right-to-work laws that prohibit any form of agreement between a union and the employer that requires any contribution by a worker to a labor union. Such interpretation undercuts the policy goals of the NLRA especially in the light of the systematic efforts of anti-collective bargaining groups in lobbying for right-to-work legislations in different states.
The dilemma in states with right-to-work laws is that labor unions continue to have the legal duty to represent all workers regardless whether they are union members or not, paying or non-paying. Thus, a non-paying worker benefits from better wages and safe working conditions negotiated by a union without contributing to the organization. Unions are further required by law to process the grievances of all workers without exception. Right-to-work encourages free-riding and discourages collective bargaining by depriving unions of financial support needed to keep an organization feasible.
On December 2012, right-to-work laws were enacted in Michigan making it the twenty-fourth right-to-work state. Amidst strong opposition from workers, the controversial legislation was passed hurriedly through a lame-duck state legislature. This effort was mainly due to the intense lobbying from anti-collective-bargaining entities funded by business interests and conservative groups. Empirical data supports that the objective of these groups is to undermine the core goals of the nation’s labor policy. This Note asserts that there is a strong public policy rationale for the courts to revisit the interpretation of Section 14(b) and harmonize such to the goals and policy intent of Congress on the heels of Michigan’s enactment of right-to-work laws.