In non-right-to-work states, a union is incentivized to mount organizing campaigns where it has only moderate support from employees. If it wins the election and unionizes the workplace, it can collect dues or fees from every employee, even if 49% of them voted against the union. This leads some unions to mount aggressive campaigns to unionize, using tactics that straddle the line between convincing and coercing workers.
In a 2007 congressional hearing, a former union organizer for the United Steelworkers testified that he was instructed to threaten migrant workers with being reported to immigration officials if they refused to support the union. That same organizer described other aggressive union tactics, such as making multiple visits to employees’ homes in an effort to frustrate them or cause them to fear for the safety of their families and property. A UAW organizer also testified that some employees were visited at their homes as many as five separate times. Once the employee agreed to support the union, the visits stopped.
These examples pale in comparison to the experience of one health care worker who had a union organizer threaten to take her children and slash her tires.[*] These examples help illustrate that some unions have shown a willingness to take inappropriate and coercive actions to win certification elections, obtain exclusive representative status and start collecting forced payments from employees.
While these tactics could theoretically be used in a right-to-work state, the policy does disincentivize them. Any worker who is subject to this treatment in a right-to-work state has the right to reject union membership and refuse to pay that union. Thus, overly aggressive organizing techniques run the risk of hurting the union in the long run. This incentive structure does not exist for non-right-to-work states. This, in part, might be why union organizing falls by approximately 50% in states that adopt a right-to-work law.
[*] “HCF Inc. d/b/a Shawnee Manor and District 1199 SEIU, The Health Care and Social Service Union, AFL–CIO, Petitioner (Case 8–RC–15261),” (The National Labor Relations Board, Aug. 27, 1996), https://perma.cc/42RP-JF8X. It should be noted that the NLRB found this behavior to be insufficient grounds to overturn the union’s election as exclusive bargaining representative.