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The Right to Work in the State of Colorado

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Most state statutes either support or prohibit requiring workers to join unions. Colorado's hybrid laws support basic right-to-work laws as allowed by the Taft-Hartley Act while maintaining workers’ rights to become a union shop in some instances. Although the Taft-Harley Act outlawed closed shops, it allowed union shops by a majority vote of employees. In union shops, new hires who aren't members must eventually join the union. Colorado allows union shops only if certain steps are followed.

Colorado's Right-To-Work Law

Unless they take special steps to become all-union shops, all workplaces in Colorado are right-to-work shops. Employees may organize labor unions that collectively bargain for the wages and benefits of their members, although not all workers are required to join the union. As a result, in some workplaces portions of the workforce are unionized. Non-union members frequently receive the same compensation and benefits as their unionized co-workers, but aren’t bound by the protections or limitations of a collective bargaining agreement.

All-Union Shops

Colorado allows workers to choose to eliminate right-to-work privileges if they feel a union shop would strengthen their bargaining position. Colorado workers can form a union shop by a 75 percent approval vote. The Colorado Department of Labor oversees and administers these elections, certifying their results to grant legal exception to the state’s prevailing right-to-work laws. Colorado is the only state in the nation that allows labor the ability to cancel its right-to-work law on a case-by-case basis. A 2013 attempt to outlaw union shops in Colorado was quickly overturned, according to Denver Business Journal.

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Right-To-Work vs. At-Will Employment

Right-to-work law is sometimes confused with at-will employment. Colorado also enforces the doctrine of at-will employment, which allows employers and employees to terminate their employment at any time. Reasons for termination do not need to be provided at time of separation, nor is either party obligated to provide advance notice. Certain situations such as existing contracts -- including labor contracts -- and discriminatory terminations aren’t protected by the at-will employment doctrine.

Deduction of Union Dues

In workplaces that are unionized, whether open or all-union shops, employers may be permitted to collect union dues directly from their workers’ paychecks on behalf of the union. Although this is common practice in many union shops, workers must authorize the deduction, and these funds must all go to the representative union. Outside of deductions for employee benefits such as health care, or court-ordered wage garnishments, withholding union dues is one of the few instances when Colorado employers may withhold money from a paycheck for a non-governmental agency.

About the Author

Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.

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