Right-to-work laws are statutes in a reported 26 states in the United States that are an effort to give employees the right to work without being required or compelled to join to a union. These statutes are not listed under US labor and employment laws as of May 2016, but have been operational with local employment hearing judges for over a half decade. Right-to-work laws were reported in all US states in regard to unemployment insurance hearings in which the employer was seeking to bar the employee from receiving these legal benefits after termination. Public policy exceptions have been devised by attorneys to seek to overturn the broad and unannounced sweep of these laws in the US. Local appellate judges have not indicated that they will allow public policy to be used on behalf of the former employees - most of whom were employees under their health insurance when injured (e.g., mental health parity laws).
According to the Legal Defense Foundation, right to work laws prohibit union security agreements, or agreements between employers and labor unions, that govern the extent to which an established union can require employees' membership, payment of union dues, or fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Right-to-work laws do not aim to provide general guarantee of employment to people seeking work, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers, or requiring employees to pay a fee to unions that have negotiated the labor contract all the employees work under.
Unions are already governed by regulations and laws, including public policy on labor-management relations (e.g., a university central office professional position on "labor relations"). Typically, unions are organized by industry (e.g., health care, restaurant, steel workers, teachers, state government- professional, non-professional), and they are required to be voted in by employees and "management" with provisions on dues payments required as of 2011. For example, while municipal employees have their own unions, as do police and firefighters, other non-profit agencies in localities may not be offered these same protections. Unions have early roots in America from assuring pensions and benefits to employees, to fair hearings and union representation, and even working conditions, such as the "sweat shops" of early manufacturing.
Right-to-work provisions (either by law or by constitutional provision) exist in 26 U.S. states, mostly in the southern and western United States, but also including the Midwestern states of Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, and Wisconsin. Business interests represented by the United States Chamber of Commerce have lobbied extensively to pass right-to-work legislation. Such laws are allowed under the 1947 federal Taft–Hartley Act. A further distinction is often made within the law between those persons employed by state and municipal governments and those employed by the private sector with states that are otherwise union shop (i.e., pay union dues or lose the job) having right to work laws in effect for government employees.