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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press "Right to Work" Means the Government Redistributes from Union Supporters to Non-Supporters

"Right to Work" Means the Government Redistributes from Union Supporters to Non-Supporters

Wednesday, 21 March 2012 04:40

The NYT began an article discussing a "right to work" measure in Minnesota by describing it as a "measure ... that would allow workers to avoid paying fees to unions they choose not to join." It would have been helpful to remind readers that under federal law a union is legally obligated to represent all the workers in a bargaining unit regardless of whether or not they choose to join the union.

This rule means that workers who do not join the union not only gain from whatever wage and benefit increases the union negotiates with the employer, they also are entitled to the union's representation in any disputes that are covered under the contract. For example, if the employer wants to discipline or fire a worker who is not a member of the union, the union is obligated to represent this worker in the same way as if they were a dues paying member of the union.

In this context, the Minnesota measure means that workers who support a union can effectively be required to pay for the representation of workers who do not support the union. This is not an obvious step toward promoting individual freedom.

Contrary to what the article asserts, every worker in Minnesota can already "avoid paying fees to unions they choose not to join." They have the option to not work at a company where there is a union contract that requires workers to pay for their union representation.

This measure is about taking away rights, not extending them. If it were approved, workers would no longer have the right to sign a contract that required that everyone who benefited from union representation paid for this representation. This is a case of the government interfering with freedom of contract.

Comments (4)Add Comment
Loopholes Ryan would oppose
written by Robert Salzberg, March 21, 2012 6:02
  If Representative Ryan was serious about reforming the tax code by closing loopholes he would have named specific loopholes he'd cut but no where in his budget does he name a single specific loophole unless you count this statement from page 67 of the Path to Prosperity 2013:

  "This budget affirmatively rejects President Obama's efforts to....add new loopholes to the tax code for favored interests."

   President Obama has picked the low hanging fruit of carried interest, corporate jet subsidies and oil and gas subsidies but Representative Ryan won't commit to ending any of those.

   For Ryan to categorically state that he'll oppose all new loopholes that are proposed by President Obama without picking a single specific loophole he'll oppose is the definition of non-serious public policy.
hypocrisy of crossing the picket line
written by frankenduf, March 21, 2012 8:14
an analagous example of the freeloading of anti-union workers: when my union went on strike, we had several people cross the picket line and work while the rest of us marched around outside with no income- which, of course, is fine in terms of "right to work", but then, when our union won wage increases that the administration had refused to provide, these same workers suddenly did not stay anti-union and refuse the wage increase- seems to me this is the essence of the hypocrisy of anti-union and anti-taxes citizens- they rhetorically want to abolish solidarity, but they partake in all the benefits of collective accomplishments just the same
written by mel in oregon, March 22, 2012 12:17
when unions were strong back in the 50s & 60s ordinary people prospered. when sappy americans elected reagan with his hatred of unions & hatred of the new deal, the beginning of the destruction of both was a foregone conclusion. today we see the results; the wealthy continue robbing the poor of their hard earned money. yet the average american is a conservative. you can lead an average american who is a conservative to knowledge, but you can't make him partake, because he is too damn stupid.
This is about destroying unions in the U.S.
written by Tom Joad, March 23, 2012 2:52
"Right to Work" bills are always passed by people whose actions show that they intend to destroy unions in this country, that it is a philosophical imperative of theirs. These laws are obviously just meant to weaken unions from within, and the people who take advantage of them to avoid dues are fools who don't understand that they are really hurting themselves in the long run. Bet most of them listen to Hate Radio with Rush every day.

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About Beat the Press

Dean Baker is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. He is the author of several books, his latest being The End of Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive. Read more about Dean.