Right to Work Act Exposed

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The Right to Work Act Exposed was approved by ALEC's Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force, approved by the ALEC Board of Directors in January 1995, and included in the 1995 Sourcebook of American State Legislation. It was re-approved by the ALEC Legislative Board in January 2013.

CMD's Bill Summary

"Right to work" policies undermine unions by preventing them from negotiating contract provisions that require all workers, including non-members, to contribute to the costs of worker representation on the job. "Right to work" encourages workers to "free ride," gaining all the advantages of the union contract without paying a share of the costs of collective bargaining and worker representation. "Right to work" laws do not create a right to employment, do nothing to improve in any way a person's odds of getting or keeping a job, and do not create any jobs.

Major corporate lobbying groups such as the National Right to Work Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its local affiliates like Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its local offshoot the American City County Exchange (ACCE), have been pushing such policies in the United States for decades.[1][2] In numerous states, the politicians pushing for right-to-work legislation were members of ALEC, including Michigan,[3] Pennsylvania[4] and Wisconsin.[5]

Advocates of "right to work" like the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Koch-founded and -funded Americans for Prosperity sometimes claim that the laws are needed to protect workers from being forced to join a union or to pay for political campaigning.[6][7] However, federal law already includes provisions for workers who object to union membership, but who are working as part of a bargaining unit represented by a union, as explained by the National Labor Relations Board: "Even under a security agreement, employees who object to full union membership may continue as 'core' members and pay only that share of dues used directly for representation, such as collective bargaining and contract administration. Known as objectors, they are no longer full members but are still protected by the union contract."[8][9][10]

So-called "right to work" laws do not create a right to have or hold a job, and should not be confused with the "right to work" as described in the U.N. Declaration of Human Rights.[11]

ALEC's local offshoot, the American City County Exchange (ACCE), promotes a local version of right-to-work. As of February 2015, one of the two ACCE "model policies" listed on ALEC's website[12] was a "Local Right to Work Ordinance."[13] ACCE's first meeting also included a presentation titled "Local Right to Work: Protect my Paycheck." ACCE representatives were featured on a Heritage Foundation panel on local right-to-work in 2014, where they spoke alongside Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and "highlighted what they viewed as opportunities for local ordinances in Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania."[14]

See CMD's SourceWatch Article on Right to Work for more information.

ALEC Bill Text


ALEC's model Right to Work Act provides that no employee need join or pay dues to a union, or refrain from joining a union, as a condition of employment. The Act establishes penalties and remedies for violations of the Act's provisions.

Model Legislation

{Title, enacting clause, etc.}

Section 1. {Title.}

This Act may be cited as the Right to Work Act.

Section 2. {Declaration of public policy.}

It is hereby declared to be the public policy of the State of (state), in order to maximize individual freedom of choice in the pursuit of employment and to encourage an employment climate conducive to economic growth, that the right to work shall not be subject to undue restraint or coercion. The right to work shall not be infringed or restricted in any way based on membership in, affiliation with, or financial support of a labor organization.

Section 3. {Labor organization.}

The term "labor organization" means any organization of any kind, or agency or employee representation committee or union, that exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning wages, rates of pay, hours of work, other conditions of employment, or other forms of compensation.

Section 4. {Freedom of choice guaranteed, discrimination prohibited.}

No person shall be required, as a condition of employment or continuation of employment:

(A) to resign or refrain from voluntary membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary financial support of a labor organization;

(B) to become or remain a member of a labor organization;

(C) to pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges of any kind or amount to a labor organization;

(D) to pay to any charity or other third party, in lieu of such payments, any amount equivalent to or a pro-rata portion of dues, fees, assessments, or other charges regularly required of members of a labor organization; or

(E) to be recommended, approved, referred, or cleared by or through a labor organization.

Section 5. {Voluntary deductions protected.}

It shall be unlawful to deduct from the wages, earnings, or compensation of an employee any union dues, fees, assessments, or other charges to be held for, transferred to, or paid over to a labor organization, unless the employee has first presented, and the employer has received, a signed written authorization of such deductions, which authorization may be revoked by the employee at any time by giving written notice of such revocation to the employer.

Section 6. {Agreements in violation, and actions to induce such agreements, declared illegal.}

Any agreement, understanding, or practice, written or oral, implied or expressed, between any labor organization and employer that violates the rights of employees as guaranteed by provisions of this chapter is hereby declared to be unlawful, null and void, and of no legal effect. Any strike, picketing, boycott, or other action by a labor organization for the sole purpose of inducing or attempting to induce an employer to enter into any agreement prohibited under this chapter is hereby declared to be for an illegal purpose and is a violation of the pro-visions of this chapter.

Section 7. {Coercion and intimidation prohibited.}

It shall be unlawful for any person, labor organization, or officer, agent or member thereof, or employer, or officer thereof, by any threatened or actual intimidation of an employee or prospective employee, or an employee's or prospective employee's parents, spouse, children, grandchildren, or any other persons residing in the employee's or prospective employee's home, or by any damage or threatened damage to an employee's or prospective employee's property, to compel or attempt to compel such employee to join, affiliate with, or financially support a labor organization or to refrain from doing so, or otherwise forfeit any rights as guaranteed by provisions of this chapter. It shall also be unlawful to cause or attempt to cause an employee to be denied employment or discharged from employment because of support or nonsupport of a labor organization by inducing or attempting to induce any other person to refuse to work with such employees.

Section 8. {Penalties.}

Any person who directly or indirectly violates any provision of this chapter shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall be subject to a fine not exceeding (insert amount) or imprisonment for a period of not more than (insert time period), or both such fine and imprisonment.

Section 9. {Civil remedies.}

Any employee harmed as a result of any violation or threatened violation of the provisions of this chapter shall be entitled to injunctive relief against any and all violators or persons threatening violations and may in addition thereto recover any and all damages, including costs and reasonable attorney fees, of any character resulting from such violation or threatened violation. Such remedies shall be independent of and in addition to the penalties and remedies prescribed in other provisions of this chapter.

Section 10. {Duty to investigate.}

It shall be the duty of the prosecuting attorneys of each county (or the attorney general of this state) to investigate complaints of violation or threatened violations of this chapter and to prosecute all persons violating any of its provisions, and to take all means at their command to ensure its effective enforcement.

Section 11. {Prospective application.}

The provisions of this chapter shall apply to all contracts entered into after the effective date of this chapter and shall apply to any renewal or extension of any existing contract.

Section 12.

An emergency existing therefore, which emergency is hereby declared to exist, this Act shall be in full force and effect on and after its passage and approval.

Section 13. {Severability clause.}

Section 14. {Repealer clause.}

Section 15. {Effective date.}


  1. Center for Media and Democracy, "Right to Work Act Exposed," ALEC Exposed project, accessed February 12, 2015.
  2. Jonas Persson, "National Right to Work Committee Attacks WI Workers with Hypocritical Zeal," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, March 3, 2015. Accessed March 6, 2015.
  3. Theresa Riley, "How Michigan’s Right-To-Work Law Came to Be," Moyers & Company, December 11, 2012. Accessed February 13, 2015.
  4. Brendan Fischer, "ALEC-Inspired "Right to Work" Bill Back Again in Pennsylvania," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, January 31, 2013. Accessed February 13, 2015.
  5. Marry Bottari and Brendan Fischer, "Koch-Tied Group Pushes New Union-Busting Bill in Wisconsin," Huffington Post, December 3, 2014. Accessed February 13, 2015.
  6. National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, "Right to Work FAQ," organizational press release, accessed February 16, 2015.
  7. Americans for Prosperity Wisconsin, Now is the Time for Right to Work, organizational website, February 20, 2015.
  8. National Labor Relations Board, "Employer/Union Rights and Obligations," government website, accessed February 16, 2015.
  9. Labor Management Relations Act, U.S. federal law, passed 1947.
  10. Communications Workers of America v. Beck, U.S. Supreme Court case, 1988.
  11. United Nations, "U.N. Declaration of Human Rights," Article 28, organizational document, December 10, 1948. Accessed February 12, 2015.
  12. American Legislative Exchange Council, Legislation tagged "ACCE", search results, February 11, 2015.
  13. American Legislative Exchange Council, "Local Right to Work Ordinance," organizational document, January 9, 2015. Accessed February 11, 2015.
  14. Brendan Fischer, "An Embattled ALEC, Buoyed by Election Results, Lays Blueprint for 2015," Center for Media and Democracy, PR Watch, November 17, 2014. Accessed February 10, 2015.