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Right-to-Work Debate Continues
Albuquerque, NM– As the right-to-work debate continues in New Mexico, there are ways to find common ground and represent the rights of the American worker. The Republican Party of New Mexico wants to continue the discussion because “Right to Work” is right for our state and for our workforce.
Opinion: Give Workers A Choice And Don’t Undo Right-To-Work
By: Vincent Vernuccio
On June 30, the Supreme Court agreed to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a case that could prohibit public sector unions from getting workers fired for not paying them. In fact, it may mandate all public employees have the right-to-work regardless of whether their state has passed such a statute.
Conversely, the National Labor Relations Board, made up of a majority of Obama nominees and widely seen to be pro-union, asked for public comment in April on a case that could change right-to-work laws for private sector employees around the country.
Thankfully for advocates of worker freedom, the board was forced to drop the request last Tuesday because the parties reached a settlement.
If the case had gone through and the NLRB sided with the union, the board could have required these workers pay unions for certain representation, even in right-to-work states, thus negating the law.
However, private sector right-to-work may not be out of the woods yet. Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation called the development a “temporary victory” and warned that the “fight will almost certainly continue” because the board may try to revisit the subject in another case.
The issue in front of the Supreme Court and the NLRB boil down to the same question
The issue in front of the Supreme Court and the NLRB boil down to the same question: Should workers be required to financially support a union for services the union must provide?
In right-to-work states, unions cannot require those they represent to pay them. Unions claim this creates a “free-rider” problem, because they must represent these nonmember (nonpaying) workers. But these nonmembers could also be considered “forced-riders” as they must accept union representation whether they want it or not.
In the case before the NLRB, the union maintained that the nonmember in question could represent himself in preliminary grievance hearings with his employer. But should the process escalate, the union admitted, the worker would have had no choice but to submit to the union’s representation in subsequent hearings.
In the Friedrichs case, the Supreme Court will decide if any amount of support given to public sector unions is really political speech and if requiring such support, as in the case in non-right-to-work states, is a violation of the First Amendment.
Forced-riders and representation exist because unions have fought for legislation establishing exclusive rights. These laws forbid anyone else—including individual workers—from negotiating contracts, and in many cases, representing workers in grievances and disciplinary hearings.
In other words, unions have fought for monopoly control of the workplace and choose to exercise that monopoly. And for this reason, they claim that all workers, even nonmembers, must be compelled to pay them. They want their cake and to eat it too.
A better way: Worker’s Choice
There is a better way. Instead of forcing workers to accept union representation and forcing unions to represent workers who do not pay them, Congress and state legislatures should let nonmembers represent themselves.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy calls this approach “Worker’s Choice,” and it would not change collective bargaining laws in any other way. It would still allow one union to have exclusive representation in a workplace. That union would still need to be formed by the consent of a majority of the workers. The only difference from current practice would be that workers who do not want to pay for union representation would be free to negotiate their own individual contracts with their employers and to hire a lawyer or represent themselves if they had a grievance.
Unions would still maintain all of their privileges, but they would not be required to represent workers who are not paying them.
In addition, Worker’s Choice would include a “one-or-none” component, preemptively prohibiting “micro-unions” (another controversial issue before the NLRB in which unions form hyper-specific bargaining units within a workplace).
Currently, less than 8% of the private sector workforce is represented by a union. This means that over 92% of workers in the private sector individually negotiate or have accepted agreements with their employer on their own.
Worker’s Choice would give employees who choose to opt out of the union only those rights and privileges afforded to workers in nonunionized worksites. No more, no less. Employers would be free to negotiate with these workers, allowing them to attract and retain top talent, or give them a take-it-or-leave-it contract.
A win-win for both sides
For those who do not think a one-size-fits-all contract is for them, Worker’s Choice could make a real difference. Workers may choose to negotiate for pay based on merit and how hard they work instead of simply how long they have been on the job, as many union contracts require.
It may also give these workers more flexible working conditions. For example, a single parent seeking more time at home may desire more time off in exchange for less pay. Another employee may want the opposite.
Worker’s Choice would also help unions keep members in right-to-work states by allowing them to show real value in paying dues.
Congress has the ability to give private sector workers this right and preempt the NLRB from trying to undo right-to-work. State legislatures can do the same for the government unions in their states that may be worried that the Supreme Court will grant right-to-work for public sector workers nationwide.