Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 73, Issue 3, pp 231–243 | Cite as

A New Approach to Resolving the Right-to-work Ethical Dilemma

  • Helen LamEmail author
  • Mark Harcourt


Union security has long been an industrial relations controversy. While compulsory unionism supporters say it benefits the working class, right-to-work advocates denounce it as an unethical infringement of individual rights and freedom. Unfortunately, neither side has adequately addressed the shortcomings of their viewpoint, nor the broader worker concerns about effective representation beyond just “unionism”. In this paper, we examine the ethical and practical problems of compulsory (union security) and voluntary (right-to-work) unionism and propose a new resolution, compulsory proportional representation, that has the advantages of: (a) ensuring workers’ freedom to associate or not associate, (b) promoting freedom to contract, (c) allowing free competition in representation in line with anti-trust principles, (d) improving industrial peace and efficiency, (e) enhancing fairness and social justice, and (f) addressing the employer–employee power imbalance. It is superior to either voluntary unionism, which often lead to management unilateralism, or compulsory unionism, where workers are compelled to join unions against their will.


Compulsory unionism freedom of association right-to-work union security voluntary unionism worker representation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Innovative ManagementAthabasca UniversitySt. AlbertCanada
  2. 2.Department of Strategy and Human Resource ManagementUniversity of WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand

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