Right to work is a phrase bandied about by politicians during every election cycle. It seems that Republicans are pro-law while Democrats are against it. But what exactly is right to work? It's much more simple than you'd imagine.


You're Not Forced Into A Union


Right-to-work states allow you to be employed without being forced into a union. Non-right-to-work states may allow for automatic unionization when you join a certain occupation. This requires you, as an employee, to cut a certain small percentage of each paycheck to the union. These are known as dues.

Dues are used to bargain with your employer on your behalf. Meanwhile, you can opt out of these dues in a right-to-work state. However, you may not receive the worker benefits of being in a union if you opt out of the dues.


The Raging Debate


The right-to-work is seen by opponents as a way for wealthy business owners to break up unions in order to lower wages and strip employee benefits. Proponents of the right-to-work like to point to the fact that they are not pro-union or anti-union. They simply say that they want to give workers a choice. According to Workplace Fairness, “Although most employment rights and labor groups are strongly opposed to Right-to-Work laws, proponents argue that Right-to-Work laws simply secure employees’ rights to choose for themselves whether or not to join and/or support a union rather than forcing workers to join as a term of employment.” Whichever side of the debate you fall on, 28 states have enacted some form of right-to-work.


Employment At Will


Many confuse the right-to-work laws with employment at will. However, these are two very different ideas. The right-to-work gives you the right to choose if you'll join a union or not. Employment at will is an understanding that you can leave your job at any time without repercussion. Of course, it goes the other way. Your employer can fire you for any reason. Not all right-to-work states have employment at will laws.


Other State And Federal Protections


You have certain nationwide rights as a right-to-work employee. No state government has the ability to strip you of your whistleblower protections, for instance. According to Bachus & Schanker,

“If you are ever in a situation where you learn that a coworker or a supervisor is participating in illegal activities, there are laws that protect you after you come clean to management.”


Whistleblower protections have been put into place in order to shield you from retaliation when you divulge a company's or employee's criminal activity.

Whistleblower protection is critical because, as an employee, you are often the only line of defense when it comes to corporate crimes. These crimes can include money laundering, tax fraud, billing fraud, workplace safety violations and so forth. Coming forward to claim your whistleblower protection is heroic and can even save lives.


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