“Right to Work” in the State of Maryland

Maryland Right-To-Work

            The employees who recently entered or those in the labor market should have a good understanding of their rights in the workplace. The federal and state governments have enacted a number of laws that protect employees against employment discrimination, unsafe working conditions and unfair labor practices among others (Sloane & Witney, 2010). The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) and other federal laws guarantee the workers in private employment the opportunity to form unions and bargain collectively with their employers.

Although the National Labor Relations Act supersedes the state laws in the jurisdictions it covers, some areas are not covered, which leaves the state to make provisions to cover the rights of public and private employees engaged in interstate commerce. One such area that states have covered is the protection of the rights of workers to join unions, which has been covered in many states under the “Right to Work”.

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According to (Cook, 2005) the “Right to Work” legislation was formed amid increasing feeling of unjust treatment by the unions or employers or both. Since 1968, over half of the states in the U.S have written and enacted the “Right to Work” laws. The legislations prohibit unions and employers from requiring the employees to join unions in order to get or keep their employments. As many states continue to enact various provisions under the “Right to Work” legislation, others like Maryland have got no “Right to Work” laws. However, despite lack of explicit laws related to “Right to Work”, the state has developed legislations that govern employment relations, for example section 4-304 the Labor and Employment Code outlines the relationships between the unions, employers and employees as it relates the matter of joining of unions.

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The Success of “Right to Work” in State of Maryland

            Just like many states in the United States, Maryland has no comprehensive laws that govern labor relations. The country’s federal statutes are the ones that govern the private employees that participate in interstate commerce. The Maryland state law outlaws an express, written, implied or oral promise that is undertaken between the employer and prospective employee, if it demands that either party joins or remains a member of labour organization or employer, withdraw from an employment relationship if either party joins or remains a member and not to join or not to remain a member of an employer or labor organization. The failure of the state of Maryland to enact comprehensive “Right to Work” has left the state employers and employees to rely on the state policy on employment and the federal provisions that govern labor relations between employers and employees.

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            However, “Forced Unionization” in the state of Maryland can be considered to have achieved less success to the employees. According to (Maryland.gov, 2017) employees in Maryland work at the will of their employers. In case an express contract, policy or agreement to the contrary, the employer can fire or hire at its discretion. This principle is termed as “employment at will” as it gives due discretion the employer to hire or fire regardless of whether the process was fair or not. The hire and fire at own will represent significant step backwards in terms of success of employee rights protections. This coincides with the inability of the state of Maryland to enact the “Right to Work” legislations despite a long legislation process. The bill that would have seen the implementation of “Right to Work” was eventually defeated in Maryland General Assembly after long debates from all the stakeholders (Cook, 2005).

            Although the general public policy of the state outlaws some form of labour practices that are deemed unfair such discrimination based on religion, country of origin,  race, color, gender, sexual orientation and marital status, all these aspects are covered under the federal labor laws. According to (Cook, 2005, p. 78) the failure of the “Right to Work” in the state of Maryland owes much to the opponents, who were mainly the labor unions. They claimed that the whole process that advocated for the legislation was opposed to the organized labor market in the state.

            The “Right to Work” legislation advocates for the worker’s rights in relation to their relationships with the unions. On the other hand, the other state and federal laws protect the rights of workers in the workplace, which includes employment discrimination and the conditions of the workplace. However, in the state of Maryland, less success has been witnessed in these two perspectives. The employee rights have not been protected at all levels. In addition to the “employment at-will”, the Maryland Center of Law for women and working families has reported unfair work schedules. According to (National Women’s Law Center & Maryland Working Families, 2017), close to 350, 000 working families in the retail, restaurant and fast food sectors face poor work schedules. According to the author, a majority of those affected are women, who constitute about 54.3% of the workers in the sectors. The fact that this challenge appears disproportionate and concerns working conditions, highlights the failure of the labour relations laws in the state of Maryland.            

Although the state of Maryland have not enacted the “Right to Work” legislations, the present state laws that govern employer-employee relationships have made little success and cannot be considered to be successful. The laws seem to be abstract, while it appears the only legislations that are actively in use are the federal labour regulations. This is evident in the abstract nature with which the state laws protect employer-employer relationships, which are further negated by the “employment at will” rule that is in place in the state.

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