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Home Publications Blogs Beat the Press Workers Are Never Required to Join Unions

Workers Are Never Required to Join Unions

Friday, 22 April 2011 05:18

The NYT wrongly told readers that a bill approved by the New Hampshire legislature would, "disallow collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union." It is already the case that collective bargaining agreements cannot require employees to join a labor union.

Under current New Hampshire law, collective bargaining agreements can require workers to pay representation fees to a union. National labor law requires that a union represent all workers who are in a bargaining unit regardless of whether or not they opt to join the union.

This means that non-members not only get the same wages and benefits as union members, but the union is also required to represent non-members in any conflict with the employer covered by the contract. For example, if a non-member is faced with an improper dismissal the union is obligated to provide them with the same representation as a union member.

The new bill passed by the New Hampshire legislature effectively guarantees non-union members the right to get union representation without paying for it (representation without taxation). It denies workers the freedom of contract that they currently enjoy, which would allow them to require that everyone who benefits from union representation has to share in the cost of union representation.

Comments (10)Add Comment
New Hampshire Creates More Freeloaders to Join Existing Ones
written by izzatzo, April 22, 2011 8:30
Non-union employees of non-union employers also benefit from union companies in the same industry via higher wages paid to compete with union companies for labor.

How much should they pay for this positive externality as the employees brag that they don't need a union and the employer brags that they pay high wages without unions?

At least an offsetting non-union 'freeloader fee' to pay for the freeloaders and underfunding of unions they're creating.
The Best Demagogery Money Can Buy
written by Union Member, April 22, 2011 10:29

Smells like Citizens United journalism.
The Price of the First Amendment
written by Union Member, April 22, 2011 2:48

New Hampshire legislture approves bill that disallows NYT fees for on-line readers. Law devalues NYT
written by PeonInChief, April 22, 2011 3:33
I think Dean is wrong on one point. Workers who choose not to join a union receive the same wages and benefits, have the same rights to seniority and promotion. The three things they don't get: they can't vote in union elections, they won't get robocalls from the union reminding them to vote in the next election, and they don't get union representation in disputes with the employer. Most states have due process requirements (because governments have greater fairness obligations that private industry), but that's not the same as requiring union representation.
written by DG, April 22, 2011 4:27
I wonder if the Chamber of Commerce or National Federation of Independent Businesses provide their benefits of membership to anyone that asks, regardless of whether they actually join and pay dues? Of course not, that would be stealing which is exactly what Right-to-Work for less is. Freeloaders get to take and use something without paying for it.
written by keith johnson, April 22, 2011 5:51
I think Peon is mistaken about unions not representing non-members in disputes with employers. I know in California my teachers union has to represent all bargaining unit members whether or not they are union members. This is because the union's job is to protect the CONTRACT--if employers can ignore the contract when dealing with non-union members this weakens the collective part of collective bargaining.
written by Union Member, April 22, 2011 6:27
The point is the NYT has got the story wrong. And misleading errors in the Paper of Record are exponentially more influential and therefore harmful. And
once in the wind tunnel these effects are longer lasting. This very article may've been pulled from the Times' own echo chamber.

As a union member I see daily the disastrous effects of shoddy journalism on the economic well-being of hard working responsible tax-paying human beings. I see people working two and three day workweeks, fall behind on their mortgage, college educations traded for military service, the loss of health insurance, falling behind inyour dues, the fear of a $80 tank of gas, letting the family pet die because...economists said we'd have choices...
written by Jay, April 22, 2011 9:58
Smart people aren't competent to comment on everything. And generally wise people know when not to comment. Not saying the writer is dumb but someone should have caught that before it was published unless it was just more partisan spin. You should have a working knowledge of Federal Labor Law before you write an article like that. It's called research.
written by urban legend, April 22, 2011 11:49
Yes, peoninchief is wrong about representation in disputes. By law the union must do it.
misleading comments squared
written by Catskill, April 25, 2011 6:41

I appreciate your perspective immensely, which is why I regularly read your blog. However, it seems a bit misleading to state that workers are never forced to join a union. Taft-Hartley may have outlawed closed shops, but union shops exist (I'm in one) where workers can be forced to pay union dues. It seems a little misleading to state that workers don't have to join a union, when they have to pay dues to the union that they technically haven't joined but are receiving benefits from.

For what it's worth, I am active in my union because I believe in the labor movement. But I'm under no illusion that my membership is voluntary.

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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.