Many states have enacted so-called "right to work" laws (the name given by supporters) that prohibit unions and employers from requiring the payment of monthly union dues at workplaces with organized labor. Supporters of these laws often claim that they prevent "forced unionism," but that isn't accurate.
In reality, these laws ban the enforcement of security agreements that require non-union members to pay a monthly fee to cover the expenses of representation (since even non-union workers are entitled to union perks and benefits). These security agreements are meant to ensure that unions can afford to operate. It's worth repeating that even in states without these laws, federal law prohibits any "forced" union membership.
Most states with right to work laws use some variation of the following statutory language: "No person shall be denied employment on account of membership or non-membership in a labor union." However, it already is a violation of federal law to require union membership as a condition of employment.
Right to Work Law in Rhode Island: The Basics
The state of Rhode Island does not have a right to work law or any laws prohibiting security agreements at unionized workplaces. Legislation has been introduced at least once, but so far has not received the necessary support of state lawmakers.
See FindLaw's Unions section for additional articles and resources.
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Note: State laws are subject to change at any time through a number of methods, but usually through the enactment of newly signed legislation or the decisions of higher courts. While we strive to ensure the accuracy of these pages, you may also want to contact a Rhode Island labor and employment attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
The Heated Debate Over Right to Work Laws
Efforts to pass these types of state laws have inspired impassioned support and opposition from business and labor groups. The name "right to work" is itself divisive, since it suggests that security agreements take away a person's right to have a job, critics say, arguing that these laws are only intended to defund and thus disempower labor unions. But supporters argue that these laws are necessary to prevent "bullying" by unions, who also use these monthly payments for political contributions.
Research the Law
Rhode Island Union Membership and Right to Work Laws: Related Resources
Contact a qualified attorney.