Lawmakers in New Hampshire and Missouri are advancing so-called right-to-work bills that would allow private-sector workers to opt out of joining unions, the latest such efforts to curb labor unions in the legislative season that in many states is now entering the home stretch.
The measures, if successful, would mark the first expansion in a decade of right-to-work laws, which are on the books in 22 states.
Right-to-work measures were proposed in 18 states this year, an unusually high number that labor experts attribute to state budget and economic woes, GOP gains in November and influence by tea-party groups that oppose unions’ political clout. Ohio and Wisconsin didn’t pass specific right-to-work legislation but did adopt laws allowing public-sector employees to opt out of paying dues. The laws generally are backed by business groups and Republicans, opposed by Democrats and denounced by labor.
Most of the bills proposed this year likely are not far enough along to pass before legislative sessions end. Others died during negotiations. In Indiana, for instance, where Democrats fled the state in part to protest such a measure, House Republicans abandoned the idea to get them back to the table.
Still, the large number of proposals demonstrate the growing momentum of the idea. Legislators in many states say they will take up similar measures next year.