A union is an exclusive collective bargaining agent, which means that it must fairly represent all of the workers in the bargaining unit, including those who have decided not to be members or pay dues. People who oppose “right to work” laws do so because they believe that right to work laws allow employees to be free riders. This means that they benefit from collective bargaining but do not pay for the work. Right to work laws are based on the notion of freedom of contract.
Right to Work Laws
Union security agreements are contracts between labor unions and employers that specify the extent to which the union can force the employees who benefit from the union contract to pay for membership, fees, or union dues as a condition of their jobs. Although the phrase "right to work" sounds like a legal requirement that workers be able to get and keep jobs, "right to work" statutes are actually state laws that prevent union security agreements between employers and unions. Employment remains at will in most states. Employees in unionized workplaces in states that have enacted right to work laws are not allowed to negotiate union security agreements.
Under the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), an employer and a union are permitted to sign a union security agreement that does not mandate that a worker belong to a union but does make getting and keeping a job contingent on the worker making agency fee payments to the union. Employers that sign such agreements must fire workers who do not belong to the union or do not make the agency fee payments. However, the NLRA also permits state laws to forbid such agreements, and there are states that have enacted "right to work" laws that do forbid them. In right to work states, workers who choose not to belong to a union cannot be penalized for not paying fees or dues. Further, in its 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, the US Supreme Court effectively created a right to work rule for public sector unions in states that presently do not have right to work laws.
Objecting to Union Payments or Actions
Workers who object to union dues payments because of religious reasons or because they do not support the union's political endeavors (usually those that are not connected to representing workers in the bargaining unit) should also be given different arrangements, even in states that allow union security agreements.
A worker who decides not to belong to a union or pay union dues for religious reasons may not be required to submit dues or fees. However, these workers can be asked to make a similar contribution to a charity group that is not labor-related or religious. Also, the union can require them to pay the reasonable expense of handling their grievances.
If you object to a union's use of fees for political or other endeavors not related to representation before the employer, you may be able to get the money back. You would need to pay your share of any monies spent to represent the bargaining unit. Some states ask unions to get a worker's permission before collecting any fees for activities not related to representing the workers.
Right to Work States
Right to work states currently include Wyoming, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Virginia, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Dakota, North Carolina, Nevada, Nebraska, Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan, Louisiana, Kentucky, Iowa, Kansas, Indiana, Idaho, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Arizona, and Alabama. However, states change their rules, so this list changes periodically.