House Votes to End Right-to-Work Laws

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House Votes to End Right-to-Work Laws

The House of Representatives passed sweeping legislation this week that would change a variety of federal laws, including one that allows states to pass right-to-work laws.


By a vote of 225-206, the House passed HR 842 on Tuesday. Here is how VoteSpotter describes the legislation:


To amend several longstanding federal labor and employment laws, with the effect among others of repealing the authority of states to enact "right to work" laws. These laws prohibit requiring employees in a workplace that at some time was organized by a union from having to pay fees or dues to the union as a condition of employment. The bill would also expand restrictions on whether workers can be classified as independent contractors (Uber drivers the most common example); ban employers from permanently replacing striking workers; and permit "secondary strikes," where workers in one industry go on strike to support strikes against a different industry; and more.


This legislation encompasses many of the policy priorities that unions have sought for decades. Ending right-to-work laws has long been something that unions have desired. Authorized by a 1947 federal statute, there are now 27 states that have such laws. In the past decade, some states that have traditionally been strongholds of union activity, such as Michigan and West Virginia, have adopted such laws.


There has also been recent activity in the states about how to classify independent contractors. With apps such as Uber and Lyft making it easier for individuals to work in the "gig economy," unions have expressed concerns that employers are abusing the independent contractor designation in order to avoid paying benefits. California adopted a law that restricts how independent contractors can be classified, but voters modified parts of the law dealing with some workers in the 2020 election.


Supporters of this legislation argue that workers deserve more protection in today's economy and strengthening federal labor laws will help stop them from being exploited. They contend that executives and shareholders are reaping most of the benefits from economic growth so changing the system to share the wealth with workers is fair. Opponents, however, contend that placing new restrictions on business owners will hurt the economy and workers who depend on these businesses for jobs. They contend that this law will drive businesses overseas.


The support for the legislation was largely along partisan lines. Only 5 Republicans voted for it and 1 Democrat opposed it. The Senate is unlikely to favor this bill in its current form.


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