The Right-to-Work Update

In August 2013, Missouri Lt. Governor Peter Kinder got the attention of union representatives when he stated that Missouri voters may soon get the chance to put right-to-work legislation on the 2014 ballot.  Right-to-work laws prohibit agreements between labor unions and employers that make membership or payment of union dues or fees a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.  Thus, in a right-to-work state, the workplace is an open shop where employees can choose whether they want to be included in the union or not, thereby making unions less prevalent in states that contain a right-to-work statute. 

Currently, right-to-work laws are enforced in twenty-four states under the provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, with Indiana being the twenty-third state to adopt right-to-work legislation.  However, the legality of Indiana’s right-to-work statute was recently called into doubt in Sweeney v. Zoeller, Ind. Super. Ct., No. 45D01-1305-PL-52 (order, 9/5/13).  In a decision issued on September 5, 2013, an Indiana court ruled that the state’s right-to-work law is unconstitutional because it compels unions to provide services to workers who do not pay for those services.  To support its decision, the court relied on Article I, Section 21 of the Indiana Constitution which states that “No person’s particular services shall be demanded, without just compensation.”  The court interpreted this provision to mean that unions cannot be required to provide negotiation and bargaining services to non-paying members.  The Indiana Attorney General has stated that their office will soon appeal the court’s decision to the Indiana Supreme Court.

For over half a century, McMahon Berger has represented employers in all facets of labor law.  Prior to joining McMahon Berger, many of our attorneys worked directly for the National Labor Relations Board.  If you have any questions or comments with respect to possible right-to-work legislation in Missouri, or would like advice or tips on how to keep your workforce union free, please contact our St. Louis Employment Law Firm at 314-567-7350.