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Missouri AFL-CIO

House Democrats Must Vote to Repeal Right to Work

After the Blue Wave, Democrats at the Federal and State level must vote to repeal Right to Work

Brian Young's picture
Nov 09, 2018

After Tuesday’s Midterm election, Democrats have taken over Congress. With a majority in one House, they have the ability to lay out a vision for what life could be like under a united, Democratic government. Things like universal health care, gun legislation, and investigations into Trump are sure to come up, but one of the first agenda items for Democrats should be repealing 14-b of the National Labor Relations Act.

14-b is a clause in the National Labor Relations Act that allows states to become Right to Work. Thanks to 14-b, 27 states have passed Right to Work laws. These laws weaken unions by allowing non-dues payers to free ride or continue to get the services of a union without paying for them. This includes the benefits of a collective bargaining agreement and representation in disciplinary hearings. In some states like South Carolina, union membership has dropped to almost non-existent levels thanks to Right to Work.

By voting to repeal a state’s ability to pass these laws Democrats would be signaling to union members that they will fight to create an economy and a playing field that works for working men and women. It will also force some of the so-called moderate Republicans who unions support, like Peter King, to actually put up and prove that he is against Right to Work. Is this a symbolic vote? Of course, it is. Repeal of 14b has little chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate or getting signed into law by Trump, who has previously said that he supports a National Right to Work law, but a veto by Trump may be what the union members who support him need to realize that he doesn’t have their interests at heart.

Over the next two years as Democrats lay out their plans for 2020 votes like repealing Right to Work will go a long way towards bringing union members back home, especially union members that supported Trump in states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

While Congress is symbolically voting to repeal Right to Work, Nevada has the opportunity to actually repeal the states law. With Steve Sisolak winning the race for Governor, Democrats now control all houses of government in the state. They are the only Right to Work state with Democrats in full control. Nevada is also unique because many of the states elected officials owe their wins to the powerful Culinary Workers Union. This is a unique opportunity. The only state to ever repeal a Right to Work law through their legislature was New Hampshire when they repealed it in 1949.

Nevada is still very much a purple state, but it is trending more and more Democratic each year, largely thanks to the work of the Culinary Workers. It would be a fitting payoff to these hardworking men and women if the legislators made it easier for them to bargain freely.

Over the next 24 months, Democrats will need to make the case for giving them more power at both the national and the state level. In many swing states, union members can make the difference between Republican control of the country and Democratic, so what Democrats in Congress do over these next two years will show union members if they really have our backs.

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