Indy Star OpEd: Union Bosses Distort Right To Work Facts

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(Source: February 2011 NRTWC Newsletter)

Regular observers of the Hoosier Capitol in Indianapolis report there is a strong possibility state legislators will soon vote on legislation protecting the individual employee’s freedom to join or bankroll a union, or refuse to do either, without being fired as a consequence.

Even before the new legislature convened, Rep. Wes Culver, R-Goshen, introduced House Bill 1028, which would prohibit forcing employees to join or pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment, thus making Indiana America’s 23rd right-to-work state. Rep. Jerry Torr, R-Carmel, and Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, have also introduced right-to-work legislation.

Not surprisingly, it angers Big Labor that Indiana elected officials may soon seriously consider stripping the state’s union officials of their government-granted privilege to force employees, including union members and nonmembers alike, to pay tribute to their union monopoly-bargaining agent just to keep their jobs.

In their anger, union bosses are displaying a near-total disregard for the facts. In one remarkable example, the hierarchy of the Indiana AFL-CIO has posted on its website a screed insisting state right-to-work legislation is not necessary, because “federal law already protects workers who don’t want to join a union to get or keep their jobs.”

In reality, federal law specifically authorizes union contracts forcing workers who don’t want to join a union to pay dues or fees that can be as high as full union dues, or be fired from their jobs. Technically, such workers haven’t “joined” the union. But how significant is that?

If federal law permitted you to join a union over your employer’s objection, but not to pay dues if the employer objected, then would your right to join a union really be protected by the law? Labor-law specialists and the man on the street understand that would not constitute genuine protection. Similarly, the right not to join a union isn’t truly protected by current federal law.

Federal law specifically authorizes contracts telling workers they do have to join a union within a few weeks after they get the job. And the overwhelming majority of private-sector union contracts in non-right-to-work states declare baldly that new hires have to become union “members.”

Current law in Indiana and other non-right-to-work states helps Big Labor mislead millions of workers into believing they have to join the union flat out, or be fired. If federal law actually included provisions protecting the individual employee’s freedom not to join, union lobbyists would be clamoring for their removal.

One falsehood by Indiana AFL-CIO bigwigs is their claim that unions “must represent all eligible employees, whether they pay dues or not.” That’s simply not true. Under both federal and state law, union officials have always had the option to negotiate “members-only” contracts with employers that do not affect the terms of employment of workers who do not wish to join or pay dues to a union.

However, union officials virtually always eschew their members-only option, and instead focus efforts on obtaining recognition from the employer as the monopoly-bargaining agent of all the employees in a so-called “bargaining unit.”

Of course, monopoly bargaining paves the way for forced union dues and fees. But the fact that it is legal does not give union bosses the right to disregard the fact that members-only bargaining is also legal.

Misrepresentations, misdirection and misstatements are not a legitimate part of any public debate over whether Indiana should enact a right-to-work law.

by Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Committee

(Cached copy of Op-Ed)