- - Monday, May 10, 2021

Democrats in Washington are on the verge of upending decades of precedent when it comes to how workplaces unionize across the country. The U.S. House recently passed the PRO Act, and support among Senate Democrats continues to grow.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have called for passage of the PRO Act in order to ban Right-to-Work nationally. Both Mr. Biden and Ms. Harris have also told organized labor groups on camera that they want to ban Right-to-Work.

This would be the most significant reversal of American freedoms in generations. Right-to-Work prevents employees from being fired for choosing to join or not join a union and pay dues.

But Right-to-Work is not a federal protection. Rather, the PRO Act would invalidate laws in the 27 states that have these Right-to-Work protections in place. Union bosses dislike Right-to-Work because it makes it hard for them to force all employees in a workplace to unionize and fund their operations. Yet, as union influence has waned across the country and even more so in Republican-dominated state legislatures, more and more states have sided with workers by protecting their right to work without being forced to join a union and pay dues.

Unions believe they are responsible for the changing of the guard in Washington, thus they have made the PRO Act and a federal override of state Right-to-Work laws a litmus test for their continued support and political contributions.



But not everyone is falling in line with the unions’ naked power grab. Two states are sending a clear message that they, not D.C. politicians, are in the driver’s seat when it comes to Right-to-Work. A two-thirds majority of the Tennessee House of Representatives recently joined the state Senate in adopting a resolution to make Right-to-Work a constitutional right. The amendment will be placed on the ballot next fall.

Likewise, lawmakers in North Carolina have introduced legislation to give voters the chance to place Right-to-Work in their state constitution next November. If voters approve these measures, Tennessee and North Carolina will join nine other states that not only recognize Right-to-Work but make it a constitutional protection.

States that have Right-to-Work laws or constitutional provisions have higher real income growth, employment growth, and population growth. Companies seeking greener pastures often cite Right-to-Work alongside the lack of income taxes as a chief motivator to move from one state to another. 

A blanket national policy against it will punish forward-thinking states that embrace free enterprise at the expense of their protectionist, union-controlled counterparts. Banning Right-to-Work nationally will be akin to the ongoing effort to force fiscally responsible states to bail out bankrupt ones that have long failed to rein in their lavish pension systems, another consequence of allowing unions to call the shots. Both efforts set the ceiling at the lowest common denominator.

Conversely, letting states chart their own destinies will preserve the “laboratories of democracy” that our Founders envisioned for our system of government. States that protect worker freedom and reap the economic benefits resulting therefrom will flourish; states that refuse will die on the proverbial vine. 

Perhaps that’s what the unions and the politicians who answer to them know full well, and that’s why they are working so tirelessly to upend right-to-work laws in one fell swoop rather than fight it on a level playing field from state capitol to state capitol. Fortunately, states are starting to respond by doubling down to protect their economic dominance and this important right that workers in those states have long enjoyed.

• Justin Owen is president and chief executive officer of the Beacon Center of Tennessee. Grover Norquist is president of Americans for Tax Reform.

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