Thursday, January 12, 2017

We Should All Have the Right to Work

Kentucky joins the ranks

The State of Kentucky just passed a right-to-work bill and Gov. Bevin will (or already has) sign it into law. Right-to-Work laws prohibit employees from being automatically enrolled, or forced to join, a union unless that employee has explicitly stated his/her desire to join. Such laws also prohibit forcing non-union employees to pay any union dues or "maintenance fees". Kentucky becomes the 27th state to pass a Right-to-Work law.

Union membership continues to decline and is only largest in public sector employment (government). In 2015, only 11.1% of all U.S. workers, while it was 35.2% in the public sector. The figures for 2015 are virtually unchanged from those in 2014. This interactive map from NPR shows the decline over the past 50 years.

We could probably count – and debate – all the reasons for this decline vigorously for quite some time. In the end, however, the facts are there. Fewer people are finding that being represented by a union is in their best interests.

Recently, I wrote about very important issue that should be in everyone’s interest. How can we continue to actively support a movement that allows racist, discriminatory and abusive behavior to thrive? We shouldn’t.

We also shouldn’t support a movement that abridges any other right. That was the gist of a recent Supreme Court Case related to those "agency" or "maintenance" fees non-union members are forced to pay. That case resulted in a tie vote which left the practice in place, but almost certainly will be revisited when the Supreme Court is again full force.

In 1935 the National Labor Relations Act was signed into law granting American employees the right to organize and be represented by a union. It is far past the time when we should also grant American employees the right to choose NOT to be represented by a union they don’t feel benefits them, and not force them to financially support that union.

A Right-to-Work bill has been presented to the Maryland General Assembly each year for at least the last six (?) and has never made it out of committee. Since Maryland is dominated by a Democrat-controlled legislature (although now with a Republican governor), I don’t see such a bill getting any play this year, either. Although in the furtherance of extending many rights to employees, I don’t understand why this right should be any different.

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