Thursday, January 26, 2017

If workers are generally happy, why should they be forced to join a union? Aren't right-to-work laws a good thing?

Unions exist in a workplace because a majority of employees, at the time the union was voted in, voted them in. This question presupposes that the union was voted in even though employees were generally happy without one.  

It also presupposes that anyone is forced to join a union.

No one is forced to join a union. But at some workplaces, where a union has been designated by the employees to bargain collectively on their behalf, you must either be part of the union, or allow them to bargain for you in many areas. If you object, seek employment elsewhere: it's part of the terms of working there. 

It's like having to report to a manager or supervisor you dislike, or comply with work rules you find objectionable: you're not 'forced', but if you want to work there, that's what you're going to have to deal with.

"Right-to-work" laws guarantee no one's right to work - indeed they exist, in part, to lock "employment-at-will" in place. Right-to-work laws simply provide that employees may not be required, as a condition of employment, to participate in or pay dues or fees to a labor organization. 

In other words, you're presumed to have a right to work for a specific employer in a specific location without being required to be part of a union, but once the 'right-to-work' law is in place, the union has no leverage, and the employer will never have to worry about collective bargaining; see how much your right to work there is actually worth.

Another public policy, Duty of fair representation , requires any union that can be voted in at any workplace, to give equal benefit to members and non-members alike -- not only can an employee not be penalized in any way, he can't even be denied the full benefits of union membership (by either the employer or the union) even though he chooses not to pay dues and may even oppose the union.

These two laws, together, make collective bargaining so unworkable, it doesn't exist in most places in "right-to-work" states, and enables Wal-Mart (one of the most profitable companies in the world, for just one egregious example) and other such employers to pay wages so low that nearly half of their full-time employees qualify for - and collect - public assistance in the form of food stamps, subsidized housing, and Medicaid, thus shifting to the taxpayers expenses that should be part of Wal-Mart's payroll costs.

So, no, "right-to-work" is not a good thing. It gives you the right to work for starvation wages without benefits, illegal or unsafe working conditions, arbitrary treatment, and to be fired and thrown out in the street for any imaginable cause (except unlawful discrimination, and unlawful discrimination is notoriously hard to prove unless it's so overt that only a fool would have put such a person in a decision-making position) and then some - and you don't even have a right to that.

Originally appeared on Quora

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