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Politics & Power

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2010 “Right to Work” In All Fifty States

In Northern California, a transit workers’ union is contemplating a strike because the agency they work for is facing a multi-million-dollar deficit and does not want to give the union members a raise. That is of course a simplification but it is the gist of the situation. The transit agency is trying to find a way to trim their budget in the face of a flailing economy and reduced State funds but the union seems to think that they should not feel the pinch of the economy like everyone else.

At the heart of this dispute are wage increases and union imposed work rules about how things must be done that are often ridiculous. To change a seat on one of their trains, two workers must be involved. This is not because it cannot be done safely with one. It is because there are two different workers that can get paid to do the job of one. The agency cannot change the rules without having the workers walk out. They are being financially held hostage by collective bargaining agreements.

This same transit agency has station agents who essentially sit down in little booths all day and have a reputation for being rather rude to the patrons. Some of these agents make over $100,000 per year. Six figures to sit in a booth and be rude to the patrons. I have actually experienced their attitudes first hand on many occasions. Half the time when I have gone to the booth for assistance with a matter such as money lost in a station ticket machine I have been given dirty looks and grunted at like it was some sort of inconvenience that I was asking the person paid to assist me, to assist me. Again, they make these outrageous salaries and get away with being horrible agency representatives because they are in a union.

While all of this is happening, California has soaring unemployment and tens of thousands of people who would happily do their jobs for half of what they make. These same unemployed people would likely do the jobs with better attitudes as well. The problem is that the agency can’t hire any of these people to work for less because the agency is a “union shop” and if they hired them they would be stuck in the same place with them as they are with the current employees because they would then be part of the union. The agency in the collective bargaining agreed to a “union shop” policy where employees are forced to join a union and pay dues to work for the agency after a period of time.

Now under federal law, specifically the Taft-Hartley Act, “closed shops” that require union membership as a condition of employment are illegal but “union shops” which are a little different but have the same basic affect on the employers are acceptable if the State law permits it. What States have the right to do under Taft-Hartley is pass “Right to Work” laws that state that no employer can be forced to terminate or deny employment to an individual simply because they have not joined a union. The State law then augments Taft-Hartley to close the “union shop” loophole.

The benefit of “Right to Work” laws is that they allow workers to choose if they want to join a union or not. They keep more of their money and they are not forced to go on strike when they are not dissatisfied with the state of their employment. They cannot be told to walk off the job and sacrifice the needs of their families because some union boss wants to see wages go up so that union dues will increase. The workers in “Right to Work” States are more in control of their employment and money. Another benefit is that business and the community are not held hostage by union strikes. When the unions go on strike the non-union workers keep on working and life goes on.

Now there was a time in America when unions were absolutely necessary. Factories were unsafe, OSHA didn’t exist and there were very few federal regulations regarding the conduct of employers and employees in the workplace. Unions most certainly did benefit the workers but at some point they stopped being about the workers and became about the union bosses. The problem with having a monopoly on workers is that the unions have no accountability to anyone. The workers have no real power because the union tells them on which issues they can vote so the input they have in the process is limited at best. The very few in the unions control the discussion and the lives of the workers. That is not a recipe for freedom and democracy. There may be a place for unions in the workplace but they should not have absolute control over the ability of people to work for a living in their chosen profession.

Twenty-two States have laws on the books making them “Right to Work” States. That means that there are twenty-eight that have workers, businesses and communities currently being held hostage by unions and collective bargaining. Companies have had to close factories because they could no longer afford to pay their union workers. Have unions kept jobs in Michigan? California? The unions refused to budge on wages and in the end the union bosses were not seriously negatively impacted but the union workers ended up with nothing. Companies have taken jobs overseas to avoid having to deal with American labor unions like the AFLCIO and UAW.

Supporting the American worker does not mean being blindly supportive of unions that abuse the trust that was placed in them to represent the best interests of the workers. When shops closed down because the union demands got too extreme, the union did not serve the best interests of the workers. They went from having something to having nothing because the union wanted more. While more is nicer, something is better than nothing and when you’ve lived for a while on nothing, more than before seems a lot less important. At least with “Right to Work” if you don’t want to be forced to walk away from something good because someone who lives off of your paycheck says to, you don’t have to. You can quit the union and keep working. “Right to Work” makes sense and its time has come.

American workers need to have a choice. "Right to Work" needs to be the law of the land in every State. The loophole of “union shops” being acceptable while “closed shops” are not needs to be closed. We need to get it on the ballot in 2010 in every State where “Right to Work” is not the law. Let the people have a say in the matter. Nobody should be forced to stay home from work because some union boss decided it was time to call for a strike. Nobody should be forced to pay for the privilege of holding a job that they are qualified to do. Unions don’t need to be outlawed but workers do need to have a choice. Being American is about being free to make your own decisions. As long as unions can dictate who works and who doesn’t based on who paid them for the privilege of working, there is no true freedom in the workplace. And that is just un-American.

Troy Wilson-Ripsom - Staff Writer | Give your feedback on this article. | Click icon to Digg this article

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Have You Been Downsized Due to Outsourcing?

For several years now we have listened to some within the business community tell us that America can't compete on a global scale unless they send our jobs overseas where they can be done cheaper. The question becomes, if we don't have good paying jobs here, how can we sustain our own economy? We want to hear from you. Have you lost your job? Have you been forced into a lower wage job due to outsourcing? Has outsourcing been a success for you? Did you end up in a better job?

Tell us your story so we can make sure the politicians see how outsourcing really impacts the workers who are backbone of America. Send your story to

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