Former labor leader blasts forced unionism

Former labor leader blasts forced unionism

Apostate speaks plain and simple truth to the powerful unions.

We are in the middle of the fifth annual National Employee Freedom Week, a nation-wide effort to inform employees about their union membership options. In 22 non-right-to-work (NRTW) states, an employee can become a full-fledged member, an agency fee payer (avoids paying for the union’s political agenda, but still must pay for basic union activities) or a religious objector (pays nothing to the union, but must donate a full dues equivalent to a charity). In the other 28 states, which are right-to-work (RTW), workers are free to join or can completely opt out of any association with a union.

On Sunday, the results of a survey conducted by Carnegie Mellon University researcher Lloyd Corder, which compares union members’ opinions of their unions’ performance, management and practices in NRTW states against those in RTW states, were released. The findings are most interesting. For example,

  • 68 percent of union members in RTW states were satisfied with the wage component of their contract, compared to 67 percent in NRTW states.
  • 77 percent of union members in RTW states were satisfied with the working conditions set by their contract, compared to 71 percent of those in NRTW states.
  • Similarly, 59 percent of union members in RTW states reported that their union was helpful in improving workplace safety, compared to 57 percent in NRTW states.

So it would seem that giving workers the right to choose has no negative effect on wage, working conditions and workplace safety. Ah, but a unionista could say, “This shows that unions benefit workers and those who don’t join are freeloading off what others pay for.”

The rejoinder to that point has been handled well by many in the past, but perhaps no better discussion of this issue surfaced last week on the Concerned Educators Against Forced Unionism (a project of the National Right to Work Foundation) website. In a remarkable 16 minute video, Ben Johnson, former president of the Vermont AFL-CIO and the state chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, excoriates various union activities…and in very colorful take-no-prisoners terms.

On union euphemisms:

When I was a union officer I was always ready to assure anyone who asked that we don’t make anyone pay dues. No, of course not. It’s only ‘dues’ when you want to pay it. When you have to pay it, and you do if you want to keep your job, we call it ‘agency fees’. Nothing like a bureaucratic euphemism to soothe the conscience.

On forced dues:

On its face there is something screwy about the idea that an employer can take money from your paycheck against your will and give it to a private third party that you may want nothing to do with, and whose very existence you may oppose on philosophical, financial, or strategic grounds. It seems patently unjust.

On union exclusive representation:

…Unions choose to bargain contracts that cover the entire bargaining unit, members or not. They could bargain contracts that cover only members, and leave non-members to fend for themselves. Instead, unions fight for the right to cover the whole bargaining unit, then make non-members pay for it. That’s fairness the union way.

Johnson’s last point is especially important. The simplest and fairest way to deal with the forced union issue, as he suggests, is to have what are simply known as “members only” unions. If you want to join a union, fine. But if you don’t want the services the union has to offer, then you should be allowed to be a free agent and manage your work life as an individual. But you can’t do that, because the unions insist on exclusivity.

Mike Antonucci explains, “The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves. Making people pay for services they neither asked for nor want is a ‘privilege’ we reserve for government, not for private organizations….”

One final thought: If unions are so beneficial for workers – as they keep telling us – why must they force people to pay for their service in many states?

Something for all of us to ponder during National Employee Freedom Week.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!