Tom Lobianco has an article about whether Gov. Daniels and the General Assembly will take up a right to work (for less) bill in the 2012 session. The article makes it sound like the Governor will go passive on this issue like he has in the past. It seems to be one of those things that he isn’t going to spearhead, but if his party sees fit to proceed, he won’t stand in the way either.
The perniciously named “right to work” is a misnomer. What the law really does is use government authority to prohibit a certain kind of contract. As it stands now, employers and employees have the freedom to enter into a contract whereby one of the conditions of employment is that employees join a union or, at least, pay some equivalent of union dues so they are not tempted to be free riders, receiving union benefits without paying for them. So, it’s a contractual provision that is currently permitted but not required. “Right to work” is a limitation on this freedom to contract. The General Assembly tells employers that they are not permitted to make union membership a condition of employment.
This is typically dressed up as championing the rights of future employees who might not want to join a union as a condition of employment; but the oddity is that typically the advocates of this restriction on contracts are, in other contexts, champions of absolute freedom to contract and could rarely care less what a potential employee thinks about the conditions of employment set by an employer. (Don’t like that condition of employment? Fine, go work somewhere else.) But, when union membership comes up, horrors! Conditions that are pro-union or anti-gun are off the table, but pretty much anything else goes.
So, it looks as if the Republicans in the General Assembly will try to shove this one through, Gov. Daniels will be generally supportive, but a little distant, the Democrats will fight it tooth and nail – probably with another walkout if necessary; and, we’ll see in the 2012 elections whether it was worth the effort for either side. Unions are taking heart in the reaction to anti-union legislation in Ohio which got destroyed when put to a popular vote (Gov. Daniels’ support for Gov. Kasich in that campaign notwithstanding.)
I’ll throw out one more note of caution:
Mitch Roob, then Daniels’ economic development chief, told the study committee that “right to work” was needed to bring jobs to the state.
Roob’s track record in state government has been such that, if he is for something, the smart money should probably be against it.
Rodger Johnson says
I’m not quite sure what you mean here. Does this new law (if it passed) give employers the freedom to offer employment in union shops without “requiring” a prospective employee to join the union and pay dues. Or, does this give the employee the right to choose whether he/she wants to join a union to work in an organization where a union is established?
The reason why I ask is simple. I ran into a situation in college where the union was impotent to the employer. So my question to them, as it is now for all, is simple. As a condition of employment, if the union is impotent to the employer, why would a prospective employee want to pay dues to an impotent entity?
And if an employer would rather pay a non-union worker less than what his skills are worth, why would a prospective employee sign a contract to work with an employer that has a track record of skimping on its talent?
Seem like a lot of nothing for the General Assembly to debate, when there’s real work that needs to be done. But out GA is good at freeloading at the tax payer’s expense. They make good court jesters. That why we have them, right? Feed’em a treat and they will perform to our amusement.
The law as introduced last year was HB 1028. That law made it a crime for an employer to require union membership (or payment of the equivalent in union dues) as a condition of employment. It further declares unlawful any contract between an employer and a labor organization that requires the employer to establish union membership (or dues equivalent) as a condition of employment.
Your last sentence made my day, Doug!
B-town Errant says
Government, Politics August 24, 2011
“Right-to-Work” Legislation: Same Shit, Different Century: http://wp.me/p1JTwx-88
I believe right-to-work legislation REQUIRES unions to represent EVERYONE regardless of whether they pay dues or not. In other words, Unions are being beaten with their own liberal stick. The Union would have to use member dues to represent the worker who pays no dues. In a sense, the employer could use this nifty law to bankrupt the Union quite readily.
It is not necessarily a right to work (for less). Non-union folks will make more under right to work, as employment expands in formerly unionized employers, soaking up some of the employees from the formerly non-union sectors.
I think your argument breaks down because no employer comes (came) to the table wanting to negotiate with a union. These union contracts were forced on employers in the first place.
Jeff H says
Buzzcut is flat wrong. These contracts were not forced on employers, they were negotiated via collective bargaining, with all employees unified in those negotiations. If the employer really couldn’t afford the concessions they made for their skilled labor force, they’d have gone out of business. Since the Industrial Revolution, you can point to scant few instances in which a union has literally driven a company out of business.
Right to work (for less) is simply a way to divide the powerless (the individual employees) in their negotiations with the powerful (the employer). Without the power of collective bargaining, employers can simply dictate wages, working conditions and benefits. That’s never a good situation for employees.
Right to work laws are stealth attacks on workers motivated by corporate greed.
Union agreements are not directly forced on employers, no, but employers are legally forbidden from refusing to negotiate with unions or allow its employees to belong to unions in the first place.
So-called “Right to work” laws are just as objectionable as the NLRA, and for the exact same reasons.
Refusing to allow employees to be union members is not a violation of the employee’s right of free association because the employee is free to not work for the employer and is not entitled to an association with the employer. Compelling employees to be union members is also not a violation of the employee’s right of free association for the exact same reasons.
eric schansberg says
Let’s keep this cartel strong!
It has been twenty years since I studied labor law, but I think the argument is overblown by both sides.
Federal law (the Wagner Act) gives most workers the right to organize a union. No Indiana law is going to change that.
The Taft-Hartley amendment to the Wagner Act allows individual states to pass “right to work” laws. In a “right to work” state, individual workers at a union shop can opt out of union membership. To the best of my knowledge, the nonunion worker at a union shop still has to pay a fee to the union for its services.
Whether you love or hate unions, all you need to do is to get 51 percent of your coworkers to certify or decertify a union.
So, the bill introduced last year would prohibit imposition of any kind of fee to non-union workers designed to alleviate the free rider problem.
Charlie Averill says
Top management folks are non-union folks.
Top management folks would much rather their workers be unorganized.
Lower management folks are also non-union.
At a union shop, the lower management folks know that they must pretend that they are anti union even though they are smart enough to know that their salaries and benefits are dependent on the union being able to negotiate with some strength. That’s why lower management folks always support the union.
eric schansberg says
Cartels– and other efforts to restrict competition– are typically good for those in them. That’s why those in them support them– and why those outside them aren’t excited about them.
I’m starting to believe that collective bargaining is for the weak. I’ve always been a little skeptical of unions, primarily because of their ridiculous bent toward leftist politics (and the pursuant cash flow therefrom), but I absolutely would NOT want the weakest member of my team at any table bargaining for my maximum salary. Unfortunately, that is what ends up happening: Employers are forced to strike a deal with the devil and pay some people vastly more than they are worth, while simultaneously depriving others of pay that they might otherwise enjoy. Any law that helps to bend this curve toward a “fair” market value for an individual laborer is OK by me.
Point being, I’d rather take my chances on my own than collectively bargain with a group of people who are 40-80% less able than I am.
Unions are a response to the strategy of divide and conquer. Capital is given a tool with which to aggregate its strength through the corporate form, among other things. Union aggregation of the strength of labor is a balancing force.
Andrew: So you’re perfectly fine with wholesale violations of rights of free association and private property? Because that’s what “right-to-work” is.
Why do conservatives hate capitalism and freedom so much?
Paul C. says
(1) These are not violations of your right to freely associate. These are violations of being forced to associate for the purpose of employment. The difference is significant.
(2) Can you explain the use of the word “wholesale” in your comment above? Are there “wholesale” rights violations and “retail” rights violations? If so, what is the difference?
(3)Umm, right to work enhances freedom, at least on its face. After all, it gives the employee the freedom not to join a union. The only “freedom” it takes away is the freedom of a fictional person to force people to contract with it. You can reasonably argue that the negative effect on unions would cause less freedom, but at least on its face, Right-To-Work is pro-freedom.
Employers limit all sorts of freedoms as conditions of employment. A prospective employee is free to accept those limitations in exchange for compensation or to decline those limitations. That’s the way contracts work.
And, let’s not get confused by the rhetoric; look at the proposed legislation. What does it do? It makes it illegal for an employer to contract in a certain way with a union. And, it makes it illegal for an employer to set a particular condition of employment.
The real rub here is that employers would rather not be compelled to negotiate with unions in the first place. But, that’s federal law and probably not going to change any time soon. So, employers would like to limit the scope of the negotiations if they can. “Right to work” is a way they can limit the scope of negotiations by having the legislature prohibit the employer from negotiating a union shop as one of its contract agreements with the union and prohibit the employer from agreeing to union membership (or dues equivalent) as a condition of employment the employer sets for its employees.
So, Paul; you’re just wrong that “right to work” is facially pro-freedom. On its face, it criminalizes certain behavior — i.e. a limitation on freedom. Employers and unions could no longer do something they are currently free to do.
Prospective employees would be no more (or less) free than they are currently. They still have to look at the conditions of employment offered by the employer and either accept those limitations in exchange for compensation or decline. The only thing that has changed is that one of many potential conditions has been removed from the mix.
Ok, so the whole thing about “limiting freedom” with Right to Work really isn’t correct then, is it?
You really had me sold on your view on this; that it is preventing private companies from doing something. According to your statement above, though, it sounds like it is causing a law that forces companies to do something to be a little less severe.
In other words, if companies were not forced to deal with unions, I totally agree this law is BS. However, if they’re forced to deal with unions, then this law seems reasonable.
Well, they’re forced to deal with unions in the same way that unions are forced to recognize corporations as legal entities or the validity of employer property rights — i.e. because the law requires it. Not sure that one law is necessarily more onerous than the other.
Mike Kole says
That’s right, Doug. I’d like to see the law no longer compelling government to interact with either- unions or corporations.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t unions also corporations? I do know that cities and other municipalities are corporations.
I think they’re not corporations. But, I’m not positive.
Paul C. says
Fair point Doug, I am wrong. I was arguing effect of the law, not law.
That being said, my overall point still stands true: the law does not infringe on the rights of people to freely associate. The law does infringe on requiring employees to contract with unions.
I am still wondering why those outside of union representatives care about this bill though. The primary purpose of unions is to increase union employee compensation (especially now that most of the safety concerns are regulated by the state). That increase obviously increase the cost of having employees. When that occurs, employers generally hire less employees (since the “break even point” is higher).
So, the question becomes, do we want more jobs at lower wages, or do we want less jobs at higher wages? Considering the high rate of unemployment, it would seem that the current concern is more about the quantity of jobs, not their pay. If so, RTW is a positive policy (at least for right now).
I’d counter by asking why employers outside of a union shop care about this? Is this even a pervasive issue?
But, as to why the rest of us should care about unions at all is that their presence (or potential presence) — the argument goes anyway — keeps wages higher; by discouraging management from hogging all of the profits for itself and creating an incentive to distribute a company’s profits more widely among the people who helped create the profit.
are in direct contradiction to one another.
So which one is it?
I don’t think those two statements necessarily conflict; they just implicate different rights. Under the proposed law, you would still be free to associate as you like, but your right to contract either as a union or an employer would be limited. Your right as an employer to set conditions of employment at your business would also be limited.
And, just once more – it goes a little beyond just precluding setting union membership as a condition of employment. You, as an employer, would also be forbidden from requiring non-union employees to pay a dues equivalent — e.g. contributing money to a charity of the employee’s choice in an amount equivalent to the dues paid by union members.
HB 1028 at section 8:
How is an employment agreement, in which the does work for you as part of an organization of which you, too, are a part, not a form of “association”?
Paul C. says
“I’d counter by asking why employers outside of a union shop care about this? Is this even a pervasive issue?”
I don’t know that “cmployers” are the ones pushing this agenda. This is in contrast to the people against RTW, which seems to consist primarily of union activists.
If I had to guess, I’d say it’s primarily the Indiana Manufacturers Association pushing for this; but that’s only a guess.
Unions effect everyone, both union and non-union. Unionized workers have higher wages than they otherwise would have if they were non-union, and employers respond to that by using fewer workers to get the job done. This causes there to be more people looking for work in the nonunionized sectors of the economy, which drives down wages in those sectors.
If we get RTW, which I hope that we do, I would guess that the big unionized employers like BP and US Steel will stop deducting union dues from people’s paychecks, and the steelworkers union will fall apart pretty quickly. Wages will fall for their formerly unionized employees, but overall employment at those sites will increase.
My dad worked in a union & didn’t want to. When they would strike, he still wanted to work. He disagreed with the reasons they were going on strike for.
In one case, they went on strike & after their demands were met, the factory closed within a year. My dad was able to get hired on at another factory at the same company, but I was young at the time & clearly remember the frustration he had over this. I couldn’t understand how other workers could force my dad not to be able to work when he wanted to & thought the terms were fair.
At the other end, my mom’s dad is a proud steel worker’s union member. Whenever he explains unions, they sound awesome. In his mind, the union makes better workers because they self-regulate their own members. If one if their guys does bad work, they pull him from the job & give him more training. If he doesn’t get the training he needs, they let him go.
As an IT worker, I’ve considered a union many times due to the crazy hours that are demanded, but like many of my coworkers, I can’t submit to collective bargaining. Almost everywhere I’ve worked, I’ve seen freeloaders that are able to hold a job, but by their lack of work, they make life harder on all of their coworkers. I don’t want to make them more protected.
So, I’m honestly torn on unions. Keeping people like my dad from working because union leaders want more money isn’t right. At the same time, paying people $.25 day isn’t right either. I just see unions as greedy & immoral as most executives.