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What exactly is a right-to-work state?

By: Melanie Radzicki McManus

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Author's Note: What exactly is a right-to-work state?

In the 1980s, I worked in the Wisconsin State Legislature. Right-to-work legislation was routinely discussed, although it never passed. Actually, I'm not even sure any bills ever made it out of committee and to the floor for a vote. But in 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a bill prohibiting collective bargaining for most public workers, sparking massive protests much like those that occurred when Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law right-to-work legislation in December 2012. Times are changing in America's Rust Belt, that's for sure.

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  • Bennett, William. "A victory for right-to-work laws." Dec. 13, 2012. (Jan. 3, 2013) http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/12/opinion/bennett-michigan-unions/index.html
  • Cooper, John W. "Effects of Right to Work Laws on Employees, Unions and Businesses." John W. Cooper. 2004. (Jan. 4, 2013) http://right-to-work-laws.johnwcooper.com/
  • The Economist. "Now Michigan." Dec. 15, 2012. (Jan. 3, 2013) http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21568430-anti-union-legislation-home-car-industry-now-michigan
  • Hartfield, Elizabeth. "What Is a Right-to-Work Law?" ABC News. Dec. 13, 2012. (Jan. 3, 2013) http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/OTUS/work-law/story?id=17945956#.UOXrSKzNl8E
  • Johnson, M. Alex. "Snyder signs Michigan anti-union 'right to work' measures over protests of thousands." NBC News. Dec. 11, 2012. (Jan. 3, 2013) http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/12/11/15842456-snyder-signs-michigan-anti-union-right-to-work-measures-over-protests-of-thousands?lite
  • Koba, Mark. "Why More States May Adopt Right-to-Work Laws." CNBC. Dec. 11, 2012. (Jan. 3, 2013) http://www.cnbc.com/id/100296460/Why_More_States_May_Adopt_RighttoWork_Laws
  • National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. "Right to Work Frequently-Asked Questions." (Jan. 3, 2013) http://www.nrtw.org/b/rtw_faq.htm
  • National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. "Right to Work States." (Jan. 3, 2013) http://www.nrtw.org/rtws.htm
  • Pearson, Michael. "What's the 'right-to-work' battle all about?" CNN. Dec. 12, 2012. (Jan. 3, 2013) http://www.cnn.com/2012/12/11/us/right-to-work-q-and-a/index.html
  • Plumer, Brad. "What do right-to-work laws do to a state's economy?" The Washington Post. Dec. 10, 2012. (Jan. 3, 2013) http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/12/10/how-right-to-work-laws-could-reshape-michigans-economy/
  • United States Department of Labor. "State Right-to-work Laws and Constitutional Amendments in Effect as of January 1, 2009 With Year of Passage." December 2008. (Jan. 20, 2013) http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/righttowork.htm#.UO7t_qzNl8E