Arizona Is a Right to Work State. What Does That Mean?

Arizona is a Right to Work state. Often there is confusion as to what that means. Many people believe it means that you can be fired from your job without explanation, and they are, therefore, reluctant to live and work in a Right to Work state. That is not the basis of the Right to Work concept. A Right to Work law guarantees that no person can be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or not to join, or to pay dues to a labor union. In other words, if you work in a Right to Work state, like Arizona, and the employees form a union, you may not be fired if you decide not to join.

Likewise, if you are a member of a union in a Right to Work state, and you decide to resign from the union, you may not be fired for that reason.

The National Right to Work Committee is an organization dedicated to the principle that individuals should have the right to join a labor union, but should not be required to do so.

Here is how Arizona’s Constitution, article XXV, reads:

Right to work or employment without membership in labor organization
No person shall be denied the opportunity to obtain or retain employment because of non-membership in a labor organization, nor shall the State or any subdivision thereof, or any corporation, individual or association of any kind enter into any agreement, written or oral, which excludes any person from employment or continuation of employment because of non-membership in a labor organization.

The statutes relating to Right to Work in Arizona can be found in Arizona Revised Statutes Title 23-1301 through 1307.

Facts About Right to Work

  1. If you work primarily in a Right to Work state you have the right to decline to join a union and you cannot be required to pay dues or an agency fee to the union unless you choose to join the union. This includes State or Local Government employees, Public School Teachers, and College Professors. If your employment takes place on Federal property, there may be an exception to this. Check with your specific state.
  2. All employees of the Federal Government, including Postal Service employees, by law, are guaranteed the right to decline union membership. You cannot be required to pay dues or fees to a union, no matter where you work.
  1. Railway and airline employees are not protected by state Right to Work laws.

Proponents of Right to Work laws point to what they say is empirical evidence that Right to Work states (mostly southern and western states) enjoy faster economic and employment growth than non-Right to Work states.

Opponents of Right to Work laws argue that mandatory union membership is necessary to offset the power of big business in a market economy, which is responsible for the decline in real earnings for workers and greater income inequities. They also argue that Right to Work laws give some employees a free ride, by enjoying the benefits of unionization where they work without paying the costs associated with maintaining their employment rights and benefits.

Since the 1940s, twenty-eight states (and Guam) have enacted Right to Work laws. They are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. You can see states that have enacted Right to Work laws on a map.

Whether or not you agree with Right to Work laws, and whether or not you want to live in a Right to Work state, it is important to recognize that the Right to Work laws are not to be confused with the concept of Employment at Will, which means that employment is voluntary for both employees and employers.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is not intended to be legal advice. For information about Right to Work laws, please refer to the current laws for the state in which you have an interest. If you have specific questions about a work situation, please contact an attorney.

By Judy Hedding