University of Pittsburgh
January 31, 2013

Pitt Business Dean Available to Comment on the Possibility of Right-to-Work Legislation in Pennsylvania

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—Leading labor expert John T. Delaney, dean of the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business and College of Business Administration at the University of Pittsburgh, is available to discuss the prospect of Pennsylvania establishing a “right-to-work” law.

Pennsylvania State Representative Daryl D. Metcalfe, a Republican representing Butler County, has proposed such a law in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, cosponsoring a bill that would prevent employees from being mandated to join unions and pay union dues.

“Because right-to-work laws challenge unions fundamentally,” Delaney said, “the debate in Harrisburg will become intense and loud if organized labor perceives there is serious support for the bill that has been introduced. Legislators will need to sort through the many claims about the potential effects of a right-to-work law on the Pennsylvania economy, as well as the likely reaction of thousands of union workers in the state.”

Right-to-work laws are opposed by organized labor. Because unions are required to represent equally all workers covered by a union contract, it is argued that absent the possibility of requiring dues payments, many workers would become free riders, enjoying the gains negotiated by unions without paying any of the costs of representation. Proponents of right-to-work laws emphasize that it is unfair to force individuals to join or support an organization against their will. 

While Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett has said that he does not believe the political will required to pass such a law exists in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, he also has indicated that he would sign any such bill that passed the legislature. In December, the prospect of a right-to-work law passing in Michigan was also considered unlikely before Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a similar bill into law, making Michigan the 24th U.S. state to adopt a right-to-work law. Given the historic strength of unions in Michigan and the apparent ease with which the bill passed Michigan’s state legislature, supporters of right-to-work laws have been galvanized and are focusing their energies on advocating for similar laws in other states, with some forecasting an eventual campaign in Pennsylvania.

Delaney is available to discuss the ramifications of the law if it is enacted in Pennsylvania and the nature of right-to-work laws in other U.S. states. A former business faculty member and associate dean at Michigan State University, he also is willing to discuss the implications of the specific approach taken in the Michigan right-to-work law—which Delaney calls “a landmark piece of legislation”—to eliminate the possibility of a public referendum on the issue by Michigan voters.

Delaney is a nationally known scholar in negotiation, dispute resolution, and labor-management relations. Before assuming his current position at Pitt, he was professor and associate dean in Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business and Graduate School of Management. Prior to that, he was professor of management at the University of Iowa and a professor in the Columbia University Graduate School of Business.  

Delaney has written and edited many articles, reports, and books on labor relations, unions, and collective bargaining, including Collective Bargaining in the Private Sector (Industrial Relations and Research Association, 2002). He has written about right-to-work laws in several academic journals. In addition, Delaney has provided expert testimony in Washington, D.C., to the National Labor Relations Board and the Subcommittee on Labor of the U.S. Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. He also has been interviewed and quoted by reporters from many news organizations, among them The Wall Street JournalThe New York TimesThe Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, CBS News, and National Public Radio.