A Guest Post by Terry Crenshaw
Since the first union was organized, employers and employees have been perpetually debating the benefits of collective bargaining. Oftentimes heated on both sides, the debate has escalated in the last year, as companies, unions, individuals, and political groups have voiced their opinions regarding the true value of unionized proceedings. The state laws pertaining to unions vary throughout the county, but the biggest divisor is between right to work states and those that are not.
In non-right to work states it is mandatory for all employees to join a union – which also means that all employees must pay the dues demanded by these organizations. However, this also means that all of the members of the union contribute directly to the benefits that the organization provides, as many people see it as only fair that everyone who gains from the actions of the union have contributed to it financially. In right to work states, employees are not forced to pay union dues and are not required to join an organization if they do not wish to.
Recently, Boeing announced that it’s opening a new factory in South Carolina. Currently located in Washington state, this means that the company is making the move from a non-right to work state to a right to work state – which will have major effects on wage and benefits negotiations, hiring practices, and other aspects of business concerning the personnel hired to work in the new factory.
This move has enraged workers in the Washington location, as many of them feel as though the company should consult the union before making such a move. In fact, the National Labor Relations Board, which is an independent organization that looks into labor practices, is expected by some to propose that employers provide unions with more information about their reasons for relocating.
Many people say that this move is unfair, as the business has a right to practice in whichever state it sees fit, but others say that the ability to simply up and move – leaving behind sometimes thousands of unemployed workers – undermines the very purpose of having a union in the first place. True, right to work laws have long been disputed, and there are pros and cons to both sides of the debate.
Right to Work Pros
People who stand behind the right to work laws do so for many reasons, but the biggest one is that they do not feel it ethical to force employees to pay dues to a union if they do not want to join. In fact, the freedom of association, as cited in the Constitution, often comes into play. Employees should have the ability to join or not join a union as they see fit, and should certainly not be forced to spend their hard-earned money to pay for a service they do not wish to purchase.
An additional dimension is brought to the debate when allegations are made that the money raised by the unions is being used to support causes that may be controversial in nature, such as certain political parties. If the money were used for the sole benefit of the employees many of them would be more likely to support the cause, but as this is not the case many employees prefer to abstain from joining any such organization.
Right to work laws also attract new business to a state. Just as in any other widespread and powerful organization, unions can fall victim to corruption and abuse their power, motivating business owners to move to a new location where they do not have to negotiate with an organization that makes unfair demands.
Right to Work Cons
Of course, this road goes both ways, and unions often protect their members from unfair terms on behalf of employers. By negotiating fair wages and benefits, unions keep employers from taking advantage of their workers, offering little to no benefits, and driving wages down. But non-right to work states are worried about more than just people getting their fair share – they’re worried about their people getting their fare share.
Right to work laws can create an environment in which employees that are not members of a union and do not pay dues to the organization benefit from its efforts, especially collective bargaining. The leaders of unions work hard to ensure that all negotiations are fair, and doing so costs a great deal of time and money. Additionally, having employees willing to work outside of the union for less undermines the attempts of the union to secure fair employment terms.
So, which will prove to be the better policy? Only time will tell, but for now it’s clear that this complicated debate will continue.
A writer for www.peterorszagsite.org, Terry Crenshaw interprets current economic trends. She traces the ideas of Peter Orszag and other leading experts relating to the economy and the healthcare industry.