Leveling the Playing Field

Following my recent speech at The Heritage Foundation, I had the distinct honor and pleasure to meet with members from organizations dedicated to the true spirit of preservation and protection of American freedoms. In attendance were a prominent group of labor experts and other groups including The Heritage Foundation, The Manhattan Institute, The Labor Relations Institute and many others. We had an in-depth discussion about forced unionization, the effect it has on American employees and employers, and the role it plays in American economics and The Taking of American Freedoms.

The group engaged in a roundtable discussion where participants were provided an opportunity to ask questions about The Devil at Our Doorstep and my personal experiences with the SEIU. They wanted to better understand  how my company was able to rein in the intimidation tactics utilized by big labor during a Corporate Campaign, methods supported by recent NLRB decisions to force unionize employees though Card Check. As the discussion evolved, there were many suggestions on ways to eliminate the brutal campaign tactics. This included passage of a National Right-To-Work law (NRTW), embracing Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations lawsuits (RICO) and, at a state level, passage of laws intended to prohibit bullying and intimidation by labor bosses. James Sherk of The Heritage Foundation proposed that we should modify state extortion and blackmail laws to include unions, which are currently not implicated under labor law. This would prohibit pressure campaigns which are designed to force an employer to surrender, rather than trying to persuade the employees to unionize.

Although I am in favor of a National Right to Work Law and some of the additional legislation proposed by the participants, I noted some possible concerns. While NRTW is a potent tool to protect employees, it does not have the teeth to hold its own against the big labor bullies. NRTW merely eliminates the “security clause” in collective bargaining agreements, effectively allowing employees to opt out of the union if they so desire. NRTW does not, however, eliminate the “check off” clause that big labor utilizes to keep employees tethered to the union. This is a clause that big labor demands in its collective bargaining agreements because it forces the unionized entity to deduct union dues from the employees’ paychecks and submit them to the union, unless the employee openly declares he or she does not want to be a part of the union. This may sound simple, but due to behind the scene intimidation tactics used by big labor bosses at the workplace, very few employees will actually opt out and request non-union status. The big labor bosses don’t want to acknowledge that Collective Bargaining is a Privilege, Not a Right, fearing that members would vote with their pocket books and against the unions if these agreements were truly negotiated to benefit the members.

The “check off” clause is imperative to unions and is found in almost all collective bargaining agreements. With this clause, unions do not have to expend the time and money for accountants to bill and collect dues from the employee. More importantly, it is a guaranteed revenue steam that is not contingent on them providing a service to its membership. Unlike a typical business operating in a free market system that has to provide an acceptable product or service in order to be paid, big labor bosses do not have to worry about such inconveniences. Instead, they use intimidation to keep the membership in line and the money from dues flowing. If big labor actually had to collect its own dues, the members would react to its poor service as customers do when a business provides poor service, they would quit buying or in this case quit paying.

This fact was made quite evident in two major instances, although neither was widely reported by the mainstream media. In the first year of Governor Mitch Daniels’ (R-IN) first term he eliminated the “check off” clause for public employees by Executive Order. Within the first year, approximately 90% of public employees quit paying union dues. They obviously were not pleased with the services provided. Not long thereafter, Governor Scott Walker (R-WI), achieved essentially the same result through legislation during the first years of his first term in office. Unions in Wisconsin immediately saw approximately a 30% drop in their membership when members voted with their pocketbooks and stopped sending monthly dues to the unions. Joe Brock, a former union organizer, succinctly summed up big labors’ pathetic record and inability to keep members without intimidation and coercion when he said, “If unions could do what they really say, instead of a 6.6% membership rate in the private sector, the union halls would look like Wal-Mart on Black Friday.”

Dianna Furchtgott-Roth of The Manhattan Institute, pointed out that RTW states not only have the highest employment growth over the last 4-5 years, but they also have the highest growth rate for union membership. The statistics she presented were absolutely astonishing, but few people likely picked up on the significance and reason behind the union growth in these states. Since employees aren’t required to join unions in RTW states, more companies are relocating to these RTW states. However, this actually provides unions new and fertile ground, as witnessed with the Boeing case in South Carolina. Despite the fact that a state or country is RTW, the law does nothing to prevent big labor Corporate Campaigns to force unionize employees and employers. In fact, as discussed by Russ Brown of The Labor Relations Institute, these campaigns are being exported all over the world as big labor becomes more and more desperate to reverse its dwindling membership.

It may come as a surprise to note that most union employees that are under the pressure and intimidation from big labor bosses will choose not to opt out of the union. The intimidation from union stewards and public employees paid to conduct union business on the job prevents employees from opting out of the union. As a part of any collective bargaining agreement, these people should not be allowed access to employees on the job. As Dianna described in her talking points, these public employees or Official Time Loafers contribute nothing to government except to further union goals and intimidate current employees to remain with the union, all at taxpayer expense. These are jobs we should target to reduce government spending.

The lesson to be learned is that when the free market is allowed to work and people are free from intimidation, they vote with their conscience. It is easy for big labor to intimidate and keep members when they have guaranteed means of collecting dues. However, when big labor is forced into a situation where they have to collect union dues on their own, it cannot accomplish the task. Even more important, this puts unions in a position where they must provide the service expected by the members and utilize dues for the employee’s benefit. If unions were to adopt this type of free market mentality, they would likely see their membership grow, without the use of intimidation and coercion. Unfortunately, they have no desire or understanding utilizing such an approach, hence the need to eliminate the “check off” clauses in any future RTW bills.

Obviously, this would be a highly contested issue as the President and the Democratic Party depend heavily on big labor for political contributions, political support and ground game. It is certain that the White House would block any attempt to pass a NRTW law, or any legislation that would eliminate the coveted “check off” clause. They know that big labor cannot compete without its bullying intimidation tactics, and in a true free market society, unions would become extinct. It is time to level the playing field for all Americans by passing a National Right to Work law that also prohibits dues “check off” clauses, because Right to Work Is A Basic American Freedom.

David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

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