Is Arizona a Right to Work State?

is arizona a right to work stateAs a right to work state, Arizona employees cannot be compelled to join a union.  However, under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), employers cannot act against employees when the employees engage in concerted activities for mutual aid or protection. This blog post will look at the correlation between Arizona, a right to work state, and the NLRA requirements.

While Arizona is a right to work state and employees cannot be compelled to a join a union, actions by employees that is considered concerted activity is still protected.  These actions are even protected when the employees are not represented by a traditional union structure.

In 1948, the Arizona Constitution was amended.  The amendment prohibited union membership as a condition of employment.  The amendment also prohibited striking to induce an employer to make an agreement with a union or to compel people to join a union, strike, or leave employment against their will by threatening or interference with an employee.  This interference includes interference with an employee’s family or property.

In 1953, the constitution was amended a second time that prohibited organized picketing and engaging in a secondary boycott for the purpose of forcing an employer to bargain with a union.

While these amendments put restrictions on union activity, employees are still protected when they engage in concerted activity.

So just what is concerted activity? And what is protected by it? Concerted activity is defined in the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.  Concerted activity are activities that employees engage in for mutual aid or protection, regardless of whether or not they are in a union.  The most common form of concerted activity is when an employee makes a complaint to an employer about a workplace issue.  Protected activity can include:

  • Filing a complaint or grievance with management, either through a formal or informal procedure
  • Making safety related complaints
  • Protesting employment discrimination by filing a complaint or protesting management
  • Appealing to state or federal government agencies and filing court actions – this could include legislative bodies as well
  • Exchanging wage and salary information with other employees
  • Making public statements about working conditions

To be concerted, the activity only needs to meet one of the following criteria

  • Undertaken by two or more employees
  • Undertaken by one employee on behalf of others
  • Relates to group action in the interests of employees or is intended to inspire activity
  • Directed towards a continuing dispute over working conditions

It is important to note the difference between “at-will” employment and a right to work state.  At will employment means that employment is voluntary for both employees and employers.  An at-will employee may fired be fired at-will or without any notice.  Of course, that employee is protected by both federal and state discrimination laws.  Right to work and the NLRA would only come into play if the action to terminate employment was based on the employee’s decision to engage in protected concerted activity.

Arizona state or local government employees are covered by the same right to work law in Arizona.  These employees have the right to join a union but are not required to and they cannot be discriminated against based on union membership or dues. The only two areas of work that are exempt from the law are railroad companies and airlines.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against as an employee for engaging in protected concerted activity, contact a lawyer as soon as possible to get an overview of your options and to ensure the statute of limitations has not run out on your claim.

Right to work law can be found in Arizona Revised Statutes Section 23-1302.  Click here for information on whether Arizona is an at will employment state.