Right-to-Work Gives Workers Rights

by Michael Haberman on December 10, 2012 · 3 comments

 

Right-to-work laws give employees the right to NOT belong to a union if they choose.

I was dumbfounded by some of the statements I have heard in the arguments about the implementation of “right-to-work” laws in Michigan. The bottomline is that right-to-work GIVES workers rights rather than taking them away.

Background

I have touched on this before when Indiana passed right-to-work legislation in early 2012 when I wrote New “Right-to-Work” Law- A Test for Union Clout? An article entitled Unions expect right-to-work will cost them members clearly articulates the reasons unions are afraid of right-to-work. It gives their members a choice. And many would decide or have decided not to belong.

An analogy

To me the concept of enforced union membership is like the draft was in the Vietnam era. To bolster membership in the military the Federal government forced young men into the military. Your choice if you were drafted was obey or to go to jail or to flee the country. In reality the majority of the military was voluntary. Many young men joined voluntarily because they thought it was the right thing to do. They exercised a choice to belong.

Unions do the same thing in non-right-to-work states. I know, I worked in such a unionized plant as the HR manager. When I hired someone, if they made it past the probationary period (btw, that is where the term probationary period comes from and why lawyers don’t want you to use it today) they HAD to become union members, otherwise I had to fire them. They could NOT work day 31 without being drafted into the union.

Exercising the right does not prohibit unions

In a right-to-work state like Georgia and the other 22 others unions are not prohibited. If a group of employees wants a union they have a clear right under Title VII of the National Labor Relations Act to form one. And if a company is doing such a bad job that these employees feel that way the company probably deserves to have one. But not everyone in that potential bargaining group would have voted for unionization. The question then becomes why they should be then forced to become part of something they were against in the first place?

In a right-to-work state they are allowed to make that choice. They can opt to be a member or opt not to be a member. That is not allowed in other 27 states that are not right-to-work. The choice those employees have are join the union or lose their job.

The real reason for protesting right-to-work

Let me spell it out for you. M-O-N-E-Y! In the non-right-to-work states everyone, regardless of their desire, must pay dues. And those dues are paid through payroll deduction. It is called dues check-off. Unions fight hard to get this provision so they don’t have to go through the trouble of collecting it themselves. (The IRS model by the way.) Without compulsory membership unions would have to prove their value to their membership. If that value was found lacking then they might find their funds lacking.

Think of it in terms of a company’s customers. What if there was a law that said everyone that lived within three miles must eat at the local McDonalds and nowhere else, regardless of the quality of the food. The company would love it, the rest of us would hate it. But because it was compulsory we would have to have lunch there. The restaurant would not have to work at delivering good products or service. Well that is what the unions are faced with. They are not going to have a captive audience and that scares them.

So the next time someone tells you that right-to-work takes away workers’ rights you will be better informed.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

akaBruno December 10, 2012 at 10:28 am

1. Gov. Snyder says unions should present “value proposition” to its members, but why doesn’t he do the same on Right to Work for MI citizens? Why does Snyder and the GOP in Michigan ask unions to be far more responsive to constitutents in a way he refuses to himself? This bill had no public hearings and rammed through in a day.
2. Given that you mention choice, workers already have the choice to decertify the union or seek changes if they are unsatisfied. Union members have a vote already whether or not to keep it in place.
3. Why should the Legislature be able to require Right to Work on LABOR dues and not other required dues? If UNIONS can’t make you pay fees when you join a job protected by a union, then why can corporations make you buy uniforms, etc.?
4. Dues check-off is also a time saver for management. It saves the workday from being disrupted as union tries to collect dues.
5. Isn’t it about M-O-N-E-Y for the employer as well? States with right-to-work had lower rates of employment growth and lower levels of per capita income.
6. How do you solve the “free rider” problem that exists in the absence of union dues? Unions don’t represent only those workers who voted for them. Union wages and benefits are paid to all workers in the bargaining unit. By allowing individuals to opt out of paying for services that they are still able to consume, right-to-work undermines the logic of shared responsibility. This is similar to allowing homeowners to opt out of paying their local taxes while still being able to freely partake of police and fire protection, garbage pickup and road repairs. These are community services that require that each of us pay our fair share.

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akaBruno December 10, 2012 at 11:25 am

I’ll try this again, since my previous comments didn’t show up…

1. Nothing supports the point about how undemocratic union membership is than forcing through a piece of legislation with no referral to committees, no meaningful debate, no hearings.
2. Why does Gov. Snyder ask unions to be far more responsive to constitutents in a way he refuses to himself? Does Snyder believe taxpayers shouldn’t pay taxes until he makes a better “value proposition” to convince us to?
3. Why should the legislature be able to require Right to Work on labor dues and not other required dues? If unions can’t make you pay fees when you join a job protected by a union, then why can corporations make you buy uniforms, etc.?
4. You mention giving workers a choice…but they already have it. They can vote to unionize, or decertify, if the union is not representing the will of the majority of union members. Right-to-work legislation distorts this democratic process under the guise of freedom of choice.
5. If you’re exempting certain groups, such as police or firefighters, than the legislation is really not about right-to-work. Why not offer that great “freedom” for cops and firefighters? Like Wisconsin, it has little to do with employment, but politics…destroying one of the Democratic party’s sources of support.
6. M-O-N-E-Y goes both ways. Destroying private sector unions drives down wages in the private sector and destroying public sector unions leaves the field clear to move in and privatize public services, including public schools. It’s about the money. States with right-to-work had lower rates of employment growth and lower levels of per capita income. Of the top ten states for personal income, only three are right-to-work states; of the bottom 10 states for personal income, seven are right-to-work states.
7. In the absence of requiring dues, how do you solve the “free rider” problem? Unions don’t represent only those workers who voted for them. Union wages and benefits are paid to all workers in the bargaining unit. By allowing individuals to opt out of paying for services that they are still able to consume, right-to-work undermines the logic of shared responsibility. This is similar to allowing homeowners to opt out of paying their local taxes while still being able to freely partake of police and fire protection, garbage pickup and road repairs. These are community services that require that each of us pay our fair share.

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Michael Haberman December 10, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Sorry Matt, yourcomments got caught by the spam filter. Good points that show that there is no perfect system. Labor law, like much other employement law needs to be revamped, in particular to the “free rider” aspects. Thanks for the read and the opposing view points, always good to have both sides introduced in a discussion.

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