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.
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.
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.