I just got off the phone with Congressman Lankford's office to discuss a topic I asked him about last year. That topic was the idea of federal right-to-work legislation.
Last session, there was a right-to-work bill, S. 504, that was co-sponsored by Senator Coburn. From what I understand, that bill died in committee.
According to that bill, if it would have passed, it would have repealed any federal provisions that authorized unions to force workers to pay union dues.
Currently in this session, there is a piece of legislation going through the House to do the same thing. It is currently in the House Education and Workforce Committee. That bill is H.R. 946, the National Right-to-Work Act. It was introduced by Rep. Steve King, Republican Congressman from Iowa. Oklahoma Reps. Tom Cole and Markwayne Mullin are co-sponsors of this bill. The rest of Oklahoma's Congressional delegation is not.
There is also a similar piece of legislation going through the U.S. Senate (S. 204), also titled the National Right-to-Work Act, that was introduced by Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. Both Oklahoma Senators Coburn and Inhofe are co-sponsors of this bill.
Both of these bills would effectively amend the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act.
Congressman Lankford is not sure how he would vote on this if it came to a vote on the House floor. His reason actually makes some sense though. His concern is whether or not this is something that the federal government should be involved in.
I have written about right-to-work before. In August 2009, I wrote an article on right-to-work laws called Politics 101: Right-to-Work Laws.
As I stated in that article, I believe that it is unethical and should be illegal to require union membership as a condition of employment.
That being said, should the federal government intervene in regards to right-to-work laws or should this be left to the states to decide? On one hand, not being a huge fan of government intervention, I would say it is best left for states to decide. On the other hand, would this fall under the powers of Congress as stated in Article I, Section 8, specifically, the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states..."
Would this be considered regulating commerce among the states? Probably not. I'm not sure if workers rights would be considered commerce.
I am certainly open and encourage any discussion on this matter. So first, do you support or oppose right-to-work laws and secondly, should the federal government establish a national right-to-work law or is this outside the federal government's jurisdiction and should left alone for the states to decide?
You can read and track the status of both of these bills at the following links: