Should workers in union-covered jobs be able to opt out of dues and membership?

A Senate committee on Monday passed the so-called right-to-work bill, which would make union membership and dues payment voluntary in Minnesota. Today’s Question: Should workers in union-covered jobs be able to opt out of dues and membership?

  • Clark

    Yes. As a believer in merit, I am opposed to unions in general. They had their benefits 50 years ago but today, unions are created to wreck havoc on private business, airlines, steel, tiles , auto’s.

    All were BK in the past 15 years driven to some degree by excessive union demands.

    Now public employee unions are ready to attack those politicians who simply provide a realistic view of the cost of benefits and health care for public employee unions.

    Scott Walker – you are my hero. Where do I donate?

  • Tom from Northfield

    There are many non-union jobs, meanwhile taking advantage of union benefits without paying makes as much sense as getting the services of a lawyer free of any cost. Free lunch always sounds tempting, but since we all already have a right to work it’s clear the authors mid-named their bill deliberately to conceal the contents from close inspection or reflection.

    If you opt out of paying, opt out of the benefits, too. These are laws designed to make unions give out there benefits, such as health care, for free. Other than elected politicians, who set their own rules and make tax-payers pick up the costs, what business hands out free health care?

    Evidence shows clearly that wages and benefits are lower where so-called “Right-to-Work” regulations limit our constitutionally assured freedom to associate. Clever spin and rhetoric designed by ALEC to further enrich the already-wealthy is not in the interest of working middle-class families.

  • Wayne M

    Yes, remember we do live in a free country right? Freedom is one of the core values that made this nation great and made it so productive so we as a nation could produce the wealth we have. Forced unionization is a move in the wrong direction.

  • Mike

    It is a free country…you are free to get a non union job. I thought republicans were against free lunch.

  • Larry

    Sure! As long as they’re opted out of any union negotiated benefits too.

  • Luann

    Politicians and their corporate backers want to weaken the power of workers and their unions through so-called right to work for less laws. Their efforts are a partisan political ploy that undermines the basic rights of workers. By making unions weaker, these laws lower wages and living standards for all workers in the state. In fact, workers in states with these laws earn an average of $5,538 less a year than workers in other states. “Right to work” for less is closer to the truth.

  • Emery

    Right-to-work supporters falsely claim that right to work protects workers who don’t want to join a union or disagree with a union’s politics. But federal labor law already protects workers who don’t want to join a union or make political contributions.

    Right to work’s true purpose is to hurt the ability of unions to advocate for all workers and serve as a check on the ability for corporations to arbitrarily cut the wages of working Americans.

  • Rollie

    Right-to-work laws make it optional for workers covered by a union contract to help pay for the expenses that the union incurs while protecting the rights of all employees.

    The wages and benefits of union workers are negotiated through collective bargaining. This is a mutual agreement between labor and management

    If someone decides not to join the union and becomes a non-paying worker they will also receive the same wages and benefits as the dues paying members.

    Just on the face of it, this makes them a mooch and a leech on the dues paying members. All the benefits without having tho pay for them. How can this be a conservative principle?

  • reggie

    Great question, Rollie: All the benefits without having to pay for them. How can this be a conservative principle?

    It’s no longer driven by “conservative” principles in the old-fashioned sense, but the Republican party seems to be chained to the “principle” of allowing favored groups (bankers, oil companies, etc., including free-riding workers who want union benefits without paying the dues) to skim off the benefits and leave the rest of us tax-paying schmoes absorbing the risks and paying the bills.

    I do not understand why any working-class person would be bamboozled into thinking this is a good idea. The data show that “right-to-work” equals lower wages and benefits. It’s easy to see why businesses want this, but it’s not in any worker’s self-interest to support this. So, NO people should not be allowed to opt out.

    (BTW, I think some union behaviors could certainly stand reform. Let’s get to this right after we link executive pay to actual performance and stop rewarding people who shift jobs overseas or run their companies into the ground.)

  • Sara

    I’m not sure about this. I was in a union job for ten years, and for eight of those years I had to pay full dues because I was in a leadership position at work (not in the union). The last two years I paid “fare share”, or partial dues, because I was part-time and did not have to sit on committees, etc. Neither set of dues were cheap, but they were tax deductible, and I know I earned a better salary than some of my non-union colleagues.

    Now my husband thinks that the union is preventing me from being hired in my career field. I have years of experience, and the unions are required to pay me for that experience, which means that they hire someone with less experience (therefore less expensive) rather than hiring the best person for the job (me!).

  • Bob

    Less than 12% of the American workforce is unionized.

    How can this be a major issue for politicians? I will tell you it is a major issue for the corporations that support these politicians.

    I understand Corporations wanting to pay the lowest wages possible. But what I don’t understand, is how this so-called “right to work” legislation is good for the American worker.

  • david

    Hell no!

    I lived in a right-to-work state and after two years I got the hell out of there. While going to college in Nevada I also had to work full time. I worked in a factory and a couple warehouses, all for about $6/hour and no benefits what so ever, except the right to be fired at the whim of management. I moved back to the twin cities and got a comparable warehouse job for twice the pay, with medical insurance and have never looked back.

    Nevada’s right to work deal probably brought business to the state, but few of those businesses stayed long, and neither do the people. Look at the mess that state is in now! Like the tactic of using temps perpetually here, you are constantly dealing with high employee turnover, and efficiency suffers. Not to mention the workers you get stuck with are usually the bottom of the bottom of the barrel. No one takes any ownership in what they do, where they live, or bother showings any respect toward their fellow citizen. Why bother, either they or the other will not be there tomorrow.

    All this is is political pandering to business for the politician’s and business’s short term gain. It brings down the standard of living for the entire working class and probably the upper class too. It doesn’t make for a good community, or any sort of community at all.

    I had never seen a gated community until I lived there, and at first didn’t understand the point. After suffering with minimum wage wages, rampant crime and unemployment, and a me first mentality that makes Minnesotan’s actually look generous I saw why they existed. Seems like a silly additional expense though that could alleviated by not constantly trying to exploit your fellow man.

  • david

    Now lets hear from the anti-union HVAC sales man. I wonder how much business TMS Johnson would loose from union HVAC installers if they knew old gary’s true views?

  • Pat

    No, they should not be allowed to opt out if they are covered by a union contract. Paying “fair share” is a way for workers, who do not want to be a union member and support union political goals, to pay for the negotiations, but not pay for the political end of things. Fair share is the fair way to go.

    Why would we want our Constitution to limit anything about unions?

    Why not have a Constitutional amendment that insists that all working people in Minnesota become union members so that all of them can gain the benefits of unions provide workers like higher wages, better benefits, and better working conditions?

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Right to work”? The fact that this idea had to be given an Orwellian, misleading name in order to gain traction should tell you something, namely that it doesn’t stand on its merits. It’s hypocritical of so-called conservatives to oppose regulation of business and favor regulation of unions. If you don’t want to support the union, don’t work at a union shop.

  • When we get offered “free legal representation” if we cannot afford it, the GOVERNMENT pays, it’s not free.

    When the people who don’t want to pay for union benefits stay at a union site, they choose to do so, they are not forced, but you can bet MN taxpayers don’t want to spend tax dollars paying for their benefits – so why should the Minnesota government force unions to pay for non-members health care or pension? Doesn’t sound fair, let alone very free-market to me.

    Would those who say unions were important, but we don’t need them anymore also say that about the U.S. Constitution? The “Bill of RIghts” assures me the right to associate with others, and evidently that offends certain extremists of the “throw the baby out with the bathwater” ilk.

    The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes that unions are not just good for the U.S.A., but should be seen as fundamentally protected internationally. So why, now, do we want to make them provide their services without fair compensation?

    There’s one health care plan in the U.S. that’s driving costs down, not up, and it was envisioned and implemented by a Local union right here in the midwest, Operating Engineers Local 49. I’m proud to work for them, and I don’t expect the government to spend tax dollars to pay my dues and cover my pension and health care – it’s my choice.

    We have a right to work. Nobody is ever forced to join a union. This legislative push is not only mis-named, it’s a mean-spirited attempt to move Minnesota’s standard of living down to the levels of the states that have tried this theory – where wages are lower, unemployment is higher, and big government interferes with our right to organize.

    The U.S. economic boom of 1950s followed greatest sustained union expansion in American history. We need strong unions now as much as we ever have.

    So-called “Right-to-Work” is a sham; it doesn’t work, it isn’t right, and you don’t get what you don’t pay for.

  • Larry M.

    If the worker gets the benefits of the union contract then yes they have to pay for services rendered. Allowing them to opt out is making it legal for them to steal.

  • J

    There is a simple solution to this, pass the “Right to Work” amendment then anyone who does not pay the union dues do not receive any union gained benefits. We’ll see how long these “freedom loving patriots” last on $7 an hour with no health care … oh wait, they could get on “Obama-care” right? Oops, I forgot most of them are against that too.

  • Mark in Freeborn

    No. Union protection is rather like health-care coverage: it’s not something you are constantly aware of, but it’s there when you need it, and so naturally it has to be paid for somehow. Lawmakers in St. Paul would do well to be mindful of what happened, and what continues to happen, in Wisconsin….about 40% of the State Senate members face recall elections, largely due to these new laws that strip public sector employees of collective bargaining rights. What’s worse is that the Republicans want to force the issue onto the November ballot for several reasons: to mask the law’s true intent by calling it Right-to-Work; to short-circuit a probable veto: to foment an “us versus them” mentality between public sector workers and the general public; and most importantly, to avoid having to take responsibility for their irresponsible votes on the matter. When the Legislature puts issues of this sort on the ballot, it makes one wonder why we even need a Legislature in the first place!

  • Ron

    No.

    I have lived in “right-to-work” states. It is a race to the bottom for a society … a dangerous, poorly-trained for productivity and less profitable (for employers and employees) journey to the bottom.

    We’ve got to get rid of this short-term, MBA mentality. It is wrecking America.

  • Steve the Cynic

    To illustrate just how misleading this Orwellian terminology is, consider that a “right to work” was nominally guaranteed in the constitution of the old Soviet Union. Their propaganda machine often played up the “fact” that there was no unemployment in the USSR, because the government assigned everyone a job. The “right to work” in the proposed Minnesota ammendment is an idea from the exact opposite ideological pole. When politicians start saying that words mean whatever they say the words mean, watch out!

  • P. Nielsen

    Not entirely. If a majority of employees vote representation by a union, those who don’t want to be part of the union should the be required to pay a fair-share portion to cover the costs of their pay and benefits and other protections offered by the contract. No voting rights would follow those not full members of the union. RIGHT TO WORK LEGISLATION IS A RACE TO THE BOTTOM FOR ALL. The Legislature’s plan to put this forward for vote as a constitutional amendment is cowardice.

  • Ron Converse

    Its not a “union” unless all members stand together and all members contribute. Some cities that have contracts with private business insist that the business is a union shop if you want to do business with the city. How would that work out if some employees were not union members?

  • Philip

    Yes – All unions do politically is sponsor and raise money for one political party and even if you’re opposed to that party and what they stand for, as a union member, your money will go to support them. It isn’t fair or right.

  • GregX

    You’d like to believe that all companies adhere to some “model” of operation. That, however is patently disproven every day. Companies are owned and run by individuals – with their petty, self-serving, irrational fears, loves and logic. If ther was protection from that .. the unions might be unnecessary. But – absent a union and a contract that lays out how employess must be dealt with … all companies will be free to evolve carpicious and irrational management practices – within the limits of the laws they are lobbying to eliminate – just like they lobbied for “right to work”. SOOOOO ….. Will they? Doubtful!. Can they? Absolutely – and specifically towards you? Absolutely- when they’ve decided YOU are a problem or and unwanted expense or have BO or don’t laugh at the bosses jokes.

  • Yes, the individual should have the choice to join a union or not. The union should have to work to keep their members and not simply rely on government to do that for them, this is especially important for individuals who would see no benefit to joining the union. I have friends who were forced to join unions (and pay dues) for part time or temporary work, they would never be able to get any benefits (health insurance and retirement are not available for those workers) and yet they were still forced into a program that took money out of each and every paycheck…that’s wrong. Also, I hope people will remember not every union job has a non-union counterpart…especially when it comes to government union jobs. If I want to be a public school teacher (which make up over 90% of all teaching jobs in this state) I have no non-union option. Unions should not be able to remove money right out of an individual’s paycheck, if members want to donate to a political campaign that’s fine, but the union should have to ask for the money after the employee is paid not remove it before the employee gets their share. If you disagree with my points how would you feel if a requirement to take a corporate job was that you had to have a portion of your paycheck removed for a political group which donated mainly to Republicans…also they told you that you had to pay a portion of the dues (not for political campaigns) so somebody can fight for you and maybe get better benefits for you? Would you still feel that the individual should not have the choice to opt out of a situation like that?

  • GregX

    Phillip – “Yes – All unions do politically is sponsor and raise money for one political party and even if you’re opposed to that party and what they stand for, as a union member, your money will go to support them. It isn’t fair or right.” —————————————————————- If that is the sum total of your argument, then perhaps the next law we need to add to a constitution – is that corporations MUST receive shareholder approval for all political donations. Because I, shareholder in corporations, darn well want that money in MY pocket, not some right wing political hacks.

  • GregX

    Unionize CHINA and INDIA !!! That’ll fix the real problem! Too Easy … American’s can’t seem to look beyond their navels.

  • Eric Arndt

    Just say no to right to work

  • GregX

    “right to work” is the same as saying … dissolve the united states – cause florida and texas and the carolinas are tired of paying federal taxes. …. but them good folks sure want all that “federal help” everytime a hurricane blows through.

    Dues/Taxes are paid with the knowledge that someone, somewhere is going to need help or have a good idea that benefits the community- and while you hope that ill-fortune or need never visits you – you plan for that future by participating in a community. How much longer til the conservatives decide to split the actual nation apart ???

  • Tim O.

    An emphatic NO!

    It was amazing to listen to the hearing yesterday. There was a lot of talk being thrown around about freedom to choose. From the other proposed Republican amendments I didn’t think choice was their thing.

    If it’s as easy as throwing “right to” in front of something, let’s try some others…

    Right to Shelter: An obvious right, we must be able to protect ourselves from the elements. Simply find an empty apartment and move in. If you think it’s worth it, sure, go ahead and pay.

    Right to Drink Water: One of the most fundamental rights to be sure. Never mind the lakes, rivers, and even drinking fountains. Feel free to grab a bottle from the store. Just because they filter and bottle it doesn’t mean they can take away your right to drink it?

    Right to Eat: Much the same as above. What, do they expect us to starve? Just because they’ve built the restaurant and prepared the food doesn’t give them the right to tell us we can’t eat.

    Right to Work Out: Fitness keeps us healthy and reduces health care costs. There are so many benefits to maintaining a healthy body that nobody should be able to stop us from working out. The health clubs are great for that. They’ve got great facilities and equipment. There are a number of exercise classes and even a pool. They’ve made it much nicer and easier to work out in a health club. People will still pay if they think it’s worth it. If not, don’t worry, dues are optional.

    It’s just that ridiculous.

  • Shannon

    It is a free country. People who do not want to join a union are free to get a non union job. End of story. People who do not believe in unions, and do not want to pay union dues should also have no interest in the better salaries, protections and benefits that being in a union offers.

  • david

    Oh jefferson.

    “If you disagree with my points how would you feel if a requirement to take a corporate job was that you had to have a portion of your paycheck removed for a political group which donated mainly to Republicans…also they told you that you had to pay a portion of the dues (not for political campaigns) so somebody can fight for you and maybe get better benefits for you?”

    I do pay these dues to the repubs every day. In fact over the last 4 years they have cost me about $140,000. They come in the form of things like stagnant wages but increased costs of living. They come from the Federal reserve printing money, giving it away at a fraction of a percent in interest to a D-bag at wells fargo, us bank, etc who loans it back to me at a much higher interest rate so I can buy my home. Then that same D-bag drives the value of my home down by 53% by preforming unscrupulous greedy actions.

    I would like to see the temp forced to pay union dues. Sounds like a figment of your imagination to support a weak argument. Anyway if that temp was worth a damn, the union would insure they got hired full time in a timely and fair matter, not exploited as cheap labor for as long as the company wanted. Also I don’t think private school teachers are required to be in an union. Not sure about this, but doesn’t matter if you’re not willing to pay out of pocket to school your child anyway.

    Bottom line unions would not exist if their benefit to the workers did not equal more then their cost to the workers. They would have faded away long ago. The only way to stop a union is to weakening the union until they are no longer effective. That is ALL this legislation is for. It is NOT looking out for the individual’s rights. Saying anything else is a lie.

    I do believe all, if not most unions allow the opting out of paying towards political contributions. But why would anyone when the opposition is only out to exploit and destroy their standard of living. Selfish greed I guess, the proverbial free lunch.

  • Jim G

    No. Every worker in a unionized shop should pay their fair share in supporting the cost of union representation. Unions by their very existence contribute to higher wages negotiated on behave of workers in each affected industry.

    The cost of membership is cheap; in the hundreds of dollars per worker while the average increase in wages over “right to work for less” states is over $5,000 for each worker. That’s a good deal. Plus, the union will have your back in a dispute with management.

    During the 1930’s workers died in Minneapolis during protests for their right to a living wage. Business owners then pressured the Governor to declare Martial Law. The National Guard was called to protect the owners’ right to rip off their workers. Do you work more than a 40 hour week now with no overtime? My step-daughter is, and it’s in a non-union white collar industry. That’s why Minnesota must stop this blatant attempt to take away not only our rights, but workers’ livelihood. And that’s why as a retired union member, I’m still a union man at heart.

  • Steve the Cynic

    “Jefferson”: Your argument has two big holes. First, it’s not government that’s requiring union membership. It’s actually the corporation that’s requiring it, when that’s what they’ve agreed to as part of the union contract. The constitutional issue involved here is freedom of association, which “right to work” laws attack. Second, whenever a corporation donates to a political party, that’s money that could have gone into better wages, or dividends, or capital improvements, so in fact it is deducted from paychecks. On the other hand, when workers in union shops choose not to join the union but instead pay a “fair share” percentage, by law that money can only go to pay for their union representation, not for the union’s political activities. It’s only a fraction of the actual union dues that pay for political advocacy.

  • david – [I would like to see the temp forced to pay union dues. Sounds like a figment of your imagination to support a weak argument. Anyway if that temp was worth a damn, the union would insure they got hired full time in a timely and fair matter, not exploited as cheap labor for as long as the company wanted.] *** I have friends who were doing some summer jobs where they had to join a electric workers union but they were going to school to become engineers…they didn’t want a permanent job but they were still forced to pay dues. I have also heard from many older people forced to join unions for after school jobs (like at a grocery store), when they never received an ounce of benefit for all their dues. I loved this line from you “Bottom line unions would not exist if their benefit to the workers did not equal more then their cost to the workers. They would have faded away long ago.” Have you been paying attention? Union membership in the private sector is disappearing, they no longer provide a benefit…the only reason they stick around is the political connections (remember Obama bailing out Detroit to save the union contracts?). The public unions are a corrupt system, which is why they refuse to go away…even FDR argued against public sector unions and didn’t think they should have the ability to strike.

  • Kevin

    The problem with the “Right to Work” law is that it subsidizes freeloading, but before getting into that, a word to help clarify the discussion about “fair share” union dues.

    Under current law, when workers opt out of paying union dues, their dues are reduced to pay only their proportional share of the unions cost of negotiating pay and benefits. In essence, they opt out of only the unions political activities. The reduced dues they pay go directly to the labor negotiations that determine their pay and benefits.

    The right to work legislation allows workers to choose not to pay any dues, but still receive the higher wages and benefits that result from union negotiations. In other words, it promises something for nothing.

    If equity is any consideration, we should agree that if you want the benefit, you have to pay the cost. If you don’t want to pay the cost, you shouldn’t receive the benefit.

    A more equitable arrangement would be to allow workers to opt out of paying 100% of union dues, but they would then not receive any of the benefits of union membership. Wages and benefits could be fixed at the average of the nearest “right to work” states. The union would not have to represent the worker in a labor grievance, and non-union workers could be laid off at will.

  • Marj

    Opting out option means unions will be undermined. for the life of me, I cannot understand why people would not support rights to negotiate fair wages and benefits. This is something that has been fought for. Cannot imagine going back to a time when we didn’t have unions and collective bargaining. Might as well re-open the sweatshops and child labor, bring back endless hours of work, no overtime pay and horrific conditions too while we are at it! Without collective bargaining–we have little to no rights in the workplace. We can thank unions for so many benefits. Corporations do not want unions because it allows for the people to have a voice. I’m going to stand with the people over corporations every single time!

  • david

    So jefferson, your electrical engineering students are volunteering to pay union dues to get paid for what should be a non-paying internship? To bad for them. Oh wait, they are getting paid for what otherwise the “free market” would dictate they should not be. As for grandpa at the grocery store, he’s opting out of union benefits why? Because he’s already getting medicare? Why is he working, cause he’s bored? He can volunteer at the crisis nursery or the salvation army then, otherwise be thankful that grocery store isn’t paying him minimum wage, cause in a right to work state they would be.

    The union is a free market amongst the workers. They vote and stand collectively for their rights. Bringing up Obama bailing out the autoworkers has little to do with the unions on a whole. There are way way more factors to consider, and a simpleton boogie man to blame is not right. If you have ever worked a day in your life, and not a summer job during college, union or not, and in a right to work state and not I’d give more credence to your points of view. All you are doing is regurgitating what sean hannity and rush limbaugh are telling you to think.

  • Troy

    Yes.

    Todays employees should not be required to pay for what amounts to a Union Historical Society dedicated to remembering inflated versions of past benefits confered on yesterdays workers.

    If they think it is worth it, they should be allowed to join and enjoy the benefits. If not, they should be allowed to refuse those things.

  • Ann Kutt

    No, if you want the benefits you pay the dues!!!!!

  • Steve the Cynic – [Your argument has two big holes. First, it’s not government that’s requiring union membership. It’s actually the corporation that’s requiring it, when that’s what they’ve agreed to as part of the union contract. The constitutional issue involved here is freedom of association, which “right to work” laws attack.] *** I’m so glad you brought this up, I would agree with you in principle if the corporation had a choice to work with the union or not. If those who run the corporation want to stop working with the union they should have that option, right now they don’t…which of course violates corporation’s freedom of association doesn’t it? What about the individuals who didn’t want to join the union…remember it only takes 51% to create a union…doesn’t that violate the rights of the other 49%? Also, I don’t like the fact that the the political action group money is deducted right out of an individual’s paycheck, why can’t the union let members keep the money and simply ask for donations?

  • Doug

    One word for you: ALEC

  • AJ

    @Jefferson — you are combining two separate issues. People who elect to NOT join the union do not make campaign contributions. Their fair-share dues only cover the cost of bargaining and protecting the contract. Union support for political action comes from DUES paying MEMBERs who choose to join the union, reap its benefits and know a small portion of their dues goes to political activity that benefits unions.

  • David Kleppe

    Pro or con, some really intelligent comments about union membership and right-to-work laws. Shows the results of Minnesota’s high literacy rate and the state’s educational system, both public, private, and home schools, too.

    Some political issue websites have incredibly illogical rants from people who engage in invective rather than constructive argumentation.

    But this website isn’t like that for the most part.

    Pro or con, the arguments herein are all essential to understand, debate, and consider.

    Well done by all.

  • Nellie

    The debate about “right-to-work” is being framed as a matter of individual freedom and choice in order to distract from the real issues at hand. Over the last several decades corporations have extracted more from workers for less pay-we are actually earning less and producing more than we did in the 1970s, all while corporations are earning unprecedented profits paying CEOs several hundred times the average worker’s salary. From the perspective of the corporation, unions are getting in the way of their plans to take even more from workers in terms of pay and benefits and control over the work and environment and all terms and conditions of employment. Most workers would join a union if they had the chance but corporations run intense fear campaigns to scare workers into voting no and many are fired in the end for attempting to organize. So why are employers so rabidly anit-union? Corporate greed-they simply do not want the workers to have any power as a group to influence their wages and benefits. Make no mistake, this is all part of a race to the bottom-corporations want you to compete with worker’s in China and India and right to work is just another step toward that goal. Unions are just one of the many targets of the corporate elite on the 99%-with unions out of the way they will have a much easier time implementing austerity on all of us. Who else is out there advocating for working families besides unions? No one!

  • david – [Bringing up Obama bailing out the autoworkers has little to do with the unions on a whole. ] *** Actually I brought up Obama bailing out the car makers to make a point about how unions use government to keep unions alive. It was a counterpoint to this statement of yours “Bottom line unions would not exist if their benefit to the workers did not equal more then their cost to the workers. They would have faded away long ago.” Had the auto makers been allowed to go through normal bankruptcy proceedings then the UAW would have, at a minimum, lost their current contract and in the worst case for the union GM and Chrysler could have gone non-union. BTW, I don’t listen to Rush or Hannity, I usually listen to MPR/NPR…I base my opinions on freedoms for the individual rather than trying to use government to solve all problems…you might even be surprised to know that I am actually against the current marriage amendment on the ballot this fall.

  • AJ

    @Jefferson — I just got down to your post on temp jobs and public school teachers having no options. I’m sorry, but your information is wrong. I am also a public school teacher. Teachers have the option of joining the union or not joining and “fair-sharing” dues, meaning they only pay for the cost of negotiating and upholding a contract.

    You are objecting to paying your fair share of a system that works FOR you! You don’t have to pay for any political support you don’t approve of. You should have to pay for the contract. What percent of contracts were NOT settled on time in MN this year? Your union was working full steam on yours. And if you are ever unfairly dismissed in violation of your teaching contract, your union is required by law to go to bat for you.

    By the way — in my school district, the last two teachers who needed the union to defend the contract for them were FAIR SHARE members. But by FEDERAL LAW the union is obligated to defend fair application and enforcement of the contract. Both of them were grateful for it.

    Investigate where the dollars for your dues, whether they are full member dues or fair share dues, goes. Unions must provide a fully transparent public audit of fair share dues. There will be no question that your dues went to work for your contract.

  • AJ – [@Jefferson — you are combining two separate issues. People who elect to NOT join the union do not make campaign contributions. Their fair-share dues only cover the cost of bargaining and protecting the contract. Union support for political action comes from DUES paying MEMBERs who choose to join the union, reap its benefits and know a small portion of their dues goes to political activity that benefits unions.] *** I do understand that, I realize that individuals can choose to not donate to political campaigns…but I view a lot of the union work as transferable. If I’m a non-political donation union member should I be paying the full salary of the union head who spends a good portion of time working with politicians I disagree with and pushing policies I disagree with and organizing and determining political donations all while I am paying that person’s salary…that does happen now. When I am referring to political donations being removed directly from paychecks I am talking about individuals who choose to be a full part of the union; this is held above the non-PAC union members (who still pay for the union and yet have no union voting rights). I think it is wrong for a union to take money right out of a member’s paycheck for political donations…no other PAC has that power. All I’m asking is that the part of the union that operates like a PAC should have to go to union members and ask for donations instead of pulling it directly from their check and they should not take away voting rights from union members who choose not to donate to PACs while still requiring them to pay dues.

  • David Kleppe

    Pro or con, I enjoyed reading most of the comments on this post. The arguments and points of view were intelligently argued. Shows that Minnesota’s high literacy rate and high number of readers reflects how good the state’s educational system is, including public, private, and home shools. I learned from readers I agree and disagree with. Informed argumentation and debate is far better than some political issue websites that attract invective ranting and raving. For the most part, the commentary on this post is very valuable.

  • Philip

    GregX – I don’t care about right wing or left wing politics, but the fact remains that when I belonged to a union it did absolutely nothing to protect my job at the VA and now all the Technician positions there are gone from the department I worked it. But they were more than willing to take my money and endorse a candidate, who I didn’t support nor did I have a voice in opposing. They have served their usefulness and should just go.

  • david

    I still fail to see any points you are trying to make jefferson. The unions didn’t ask for bail outs any more then the CEO’s of dodge and gm did. Those in charge of the car companies needed the bailout due to years of mismanagement, failing to foresee market forces, and mishandling of pension funds when they had the opportunity to do otherwise. If those CEOs had their way, they would still be producing absolute crap no one wanted, paying themselves, and not their workers, exorbitant salaries, and only looking at the next quarter’s ending profits or loss. Those CEO’s flew to Washington on private jets, the union representatives did not. Those CEO’s chose to blow the money in times of plenty that should have be put away for union pensions THEY promised workers. It’s funny how so many of these bailed out companies are sitting on hordes of cash now when they should have been doing that all along.

    The driving forces behind the bail outs were the hundreds of thousands of dependent jobs on the auto industry that would have been lost due to either of those to mismanaged companies failing. Most of them non-union. It was to stop a domino effect that would have caused another great depression. Unions are not in any way shape or form the cause of the recession. If anything they only helped from keeping it from getting worse.

  • bill sankey

    No If you do not support the union then work at a non union place there are a lot to choose from.

  • Eugene Debs

    If this proposal is really about individual freedom, let’s also clear the books of all legislation, state and federal, that restricts working men and women from associating and organizing and acting collectively in the workplace. Then the free market of labor will be able to function magically and everyone should be happy.

    That would be an interesting experiment but you won’t see the corporate defenders of freedom calling for that soon. They like the uneven playing field that was legislated to quell labor unrest and allow businesses to operate. They just want to make it even more lopsided.

    Parting question for all working stiffs who think they can negotiate a better deal with an employer without union interference: Have you ever successfully done that? How often have you gone into a job interview and haggled over money and benefits? How often have you bargained a better deal on your own? Or do they pretty much lay their offer on the table and you’re free to take it or leave it?

    (If you’re a CEO or a super intelligent member of the managerial class don’t bother to answer. I agree you really don’t need to organize. At least not yet.)

  • Steve the Cynic

    “I would agree with you in principle if the corporation had a choice to work with the union or not.”

    Jefferson, I don’t think the “founding father” whose mantle you arrogate to yourself with your screen name would approve of the way you twist logic to push your ideological agenda. If the corporation doesn’t have a choice about working with the union, it’s only because the union drives as hard a bargain as the corporation does. The only law that’s keeping GM from going non-union is contract law. When the contract is up, if GM could find enough good workers who are willing to forego joining the union, they’re free to ditch it. Unions exist only because without them corporations tend to keep workers in economic servitude. The saying is true: management gets the union it deserves.

  • Eugene Debs

    “When the contract is up, if GM could find enough good workers who are willing to forego joining the union, they’re free to ditch it.”

    You’re actually seeing more companies emboldened by the hyper-divisive political environment or desperate to push as far as possible before the tide once again turns and they’re going down that road by locking out employees and bringing in the “free” agents. Of course that’s generally a process moderated by labor law so that it doesn’t become a chaotic Jungle (Upton Sinclair.) Once again I say get ride of all such laws and let the free markets work.

    But I’m really more interested in hearing about individual success stories where Joe Plumber walked into the job interview, sat down, and negotiated a better deal for himself because he was just a better plumber. Any takers?

  • David R

    The missing variable in the right to work supporters argument is greed. Unions should be credited for providing many workers with a living wage. If one looks towards periods in our history when unions were strong. Most in the middle class would agree that these times were more idyllic than they are in this day and age. Since joining my union, I have received the benefit of collective bargaining. This has provided me with health insurance, scheduled wage increases, PTO days and other benefits. The problem in private industry is that an individual worker, no matter how valuable, negotiates from a position of weakness. Even professional athletes, whose skill sets are more valued than a regular worker (from a market perspective) have learned this and have organized to improve their bargaining positions.Most would argue that true believers of market forces should support unions because they help to establish true market values for services. Collective bargaining helps to counter the hidden variable of employer greed, which otherwise erodes the true values of the workers’ services.

  • Bear

    Bottom line unions would not exist if their benefit to the workers did not equal more then [sic] their cost to the workers. They would have faded away long ago.

    Union membership is fading, now at about 12% of the workforce. This is due to several reasons.

    First, good businesses, of which there are more than those who commit the grossly exaggerated “sins” the pro union commenters post, have recognized that fair wages and good benefits make for loyal workforce. Loyal workers are more productive and stay put, reducing recruiting and training cost.

    But other union jobs have left the country. Again don’t place all the blame on business, this is union propaganda designed to incite your outcry and protest. Blame us. We have the highest standard of living in the world – trains, plans, boats, electronics — we cannot afford these toys on a wage competitive with the value created by the toy. We want our toys but for what we are willing to, pay they have to be outsourced. Also, we are highly educated and therefore expect high wages for our skills.

    And finally, while there is a need for unions, the most damming reason union membership is fading: Unions have not evolved. They are stuck a 1930’s adversarial role and they don’t serve todays members’ needs. They need a new business model. They should stop the protesting and shouting, and look to Green Peace or WWF for a business model example. Whereas these organizations originally viewed businesses as evil and battled them tooth and nail, they now have taken up a strategy of collaboration. Through collaborating with the offending business they are achieving far more than before at far less cost and pain. And, through this collaboration, businesses are finding shared value.

  • Pete

    Everyone seems to miss the obvious – middle class America is much worse off in right to work states than in union states. The 18 states with the lowest wages are all right to work states. Right to work has forced wages down in every state that has right to work (follow link).

    http://www.epi.org/publication/datazone_rtw_index/

    Why would anyone in their right mind aspire to lower wages and a reduction in benefits?

    Another argument supporters cite is – right to work creates jobs. If this is true than why are the 12 states with the highest unemployment all right to work states? The bottom line to all of the debate is – for working class Americans there is no upside to Right to Work. The right will present all kinds of numbers showing how right to work has increased employment , but these numbers will be manipulated math using 30 and 40 year “averages”.

    This study of Oklahoma is very good:

    http://www.irle.berkeley.edu/cwed/wp/right_to_work.pdf

    Conservatives keep screaming “class warfare” – well I got news for you – class warfare has been going on a long time and Middle America is losing. For years the right has been blaming everything and everybody for problems with this country but their own greed. Folks, there is a simple fix to a lot of what ails this country – make the wealthy and the corporations pay their fair share.

  • David R – [Collective bargaining helps to counter the hidden variable of employer greed, which otherwise erodes the true values of the workers’ services.] *** So what is the need for a union in the public sector if we are worried about employer greed? Tax payer greed? Does the union have more rights than the tax payer? How does that work? Perhaps we need to get rid of the public unions and let our representatives make decisions alone without union interference…isn’t that what our representatives are supposed to do, make the hard choices for us? I hope we can get to a point where public unions are nothing but PACs which can make political donations but have no power to strike or directly negotiate with politicians.

  • Debra

    Unions can be a pain, but, if you don’t pay the dues, you shouldn’t get the benefits.

  • Phil

    No

  • Drae

    It all comes down to individual choice. If a person wants to join a union, there should be nothing to stop them from joining. If another person decides they do not want to be in a union, they shouldn’t be forced into joining a union against their will. All workers should be free to decide for themselves and have their employers, unions and fellow employees respect their decision.

  • Surley the Cynic

    I can choose between a union electrician, plumber, or carpenter if I’m a customer of that service. If I don’t feel I’m getting my money’s worth, I can go else where.

    I can’t choose a non-union alternative to get a driver’s licence, or building permit.

  • Jean

    No. Every worker benefits from the contracts their bargaining unit negotiates for them. Pay the dues, get the benefits; don’t be freeloaders. I don’t see anyone suggesting if they opt out of dues they shouldn’t get the contract terms. Maybe each one of them should have to negotiate every cost of living raise, every insurance question individually with their bosses and see how they like that. Unions benefited and continue to benefit our entire nation. Our standard of living would be much lower and our safety on the job would be nil without unions. 40 hour work weeks? Overtime pay? Vacations? Ending child labor exploitation? Wouldn’t have happened without unions. Wake up America.

  • Jamie

    Absolutely not.

    But let’s be clear. This isn’t a measure to allow people more freedoms, it is a measure to destroy unions which generally support Democrats because Democrats share the values that unions manifest.

    And let’s be clear about two other things: 1.) You currently do not have to join a union if you don’t want to. But you do have to pay reduced dues because you will benefit by the union’s representation with higher pay, better benefits, and greater workplace safety and protection against bad management practices. And 2.) You don’t have to allow your union dues to go to political contributions if you don’t want to. You just have to let the union know.

    If people choose not to join a union and don’t pay for the benefits of having a union, they will be nothing but FREELOADERS. One would think Republicans wouldn’t like this idea — after all, they hate it when needy people get public assistance; they consider THEM freeloaders. But expecting Republicans to dislike freeloading in another situation would be assuming that Republicans aren’t hypocrites.

  • Jon M

    No way! My union dues pay for my pension and that alone makes it worth the cost. It also pays for the administrative costs necessary to organize the union. Don’t forget about what great things unions have done for the American worker!

  • Dave

    If you work in a union shop, union membership should be opt-out, you’re in by default and paying dues unless you opt out and then the union can’t represent you in any disputes with your employer. You get wrongfully terminated or paid below rate or discriminated against you’re on your own. If you’re ok with that, go for it. Me, I’d rather there was a union that had my back (not that that’s an option for me in my my work)

  • Karen

    No, If you don’t want a union job, and the pay and benefits that union job has to offer, don’t apply for one. PLEASE keep reading – Regarding folks who feel unions are ruining private enterprise: Unions were formed to create a BALANCE so that private enterprise treats employees fairly. As a mechanism of balance, the people who make up the union do NOT benefit if their demands ruin their employer. Thus, THAT argument doesn’t hold up. Look back to the days before unions. It’s ugly. Who would want to go back to that?

  • Ann

    My daughter moved from Minnesota to Idaho two years ago. Idaho is a “right-to-work” state. She is a registered nurse and took a 30% pay cut as well as a drastic decrease in her retirement benefits and health insurance which is almost non-existent. Be careful of what these people are trying to spoon-feed you, this only benefits the companies and corporations pushing it…

  • Jamie

    //“[private-sector unions] no longer provide a benefit…the only reason they stick around is the political connections (remember Obama bailing out Detroit to save the union contracts?). The public unions are a corrupt system…”//

    Jefferson, you certainly are throwing around a lot of lies and otherwise unsubstantiated or unsupported stuff. Typical Republican tactic… then they repeat the lies over and over again until people who don’t think critically believe that they must be true.

  • Jamie – [Jefferson, you certainly are throwing around a lot of lies and otherwise unsubstantiated or unsupported stuff. Typical Republican tactic… then they repeat the lies over and over again until people who don’t think critically believe that they must be true.] *** Nice, I like how you didn’t come up with a single counterpoint you simply pointed at my words (which are basically opinions and contain factual statements like the fact that Obama pushed for Detroit bailouts, which the UAW advocated for him to do) and called them lies? Which parts were lies? Why didn’t you try to prove them as lies? I have clearly stated my opinions on unions with all sorts of reasons and facts to back them up and I get attacked as a Republican (BTW, I am not a Republican) and apparently you think I lack critical thinking. When you can gather up enough mental energy to try to actually debate me I’ll be here to listen but simply using attacks with no substance in a weak attempt to discredit me isn’t going to work, try harder next time.

  • SonOfLiberty

    It’s actually pretty pathetic that anyone would even think to ask this question in America.

    Let’s ask it another way:

    Should it be OK for someone to be forced to join an organization they do not wish to be associated with, and to have a portion of their pay deducted against their will to support that organization as a condition of employment?

    Not in my America, friend.

  • david

    “Should it be OK for someone to be forced to join an organization they do not wish to be associated with, and to have a portion of their pay deducted against their will to support that organization as a condition of employment?”

    Unlike federal income tax, state income tax, social security, medicare, heath insurance, etc. But you would not want to pay into any of those either I am sure sonofliberty. Not sure what the alternative would be, anarchy I guess. You uber-libatarians never go far enough to offer a plan for an alternative, you just want to reap the rewards and not have to pay in. Freeloader.

    And bedsides that fact, no one is telling you you have to join the organization, there are non-union jobs available. Your argument is pointless…

  • Mike

    As a longtime fiscal conservative, I am disgusted by the Republicans who are pushing “right to work” legislation. It seems they are pandering to the left, yes, the left who want to be taken care of by govt. How? By eliminating union dies for those who don’t want to pay their fair share for representation. These govt. “leaders” who claim to be looking out for you tell you that you can negotiate your own compensation package by not being in the union in a union shop. Really? And you believe that the company is going to spend time and money negotiating with you when they are already negotiating with a union? What color is the sky in your world? Pay your fair share and be grateful someone smarter than you is negotiating for you!

  • david – [Unlike federal income tax, state income tax, social security, medicare, heath insurance, etc. But you would not want to pay into any of those either I am sure sonofliberty. Not sure what the alternative would be, anarchy I guess. You uber-libatarians never go far enough to offer a plan for an alternative, you just want to reap the rewards and not have to pay in. Freeloader.] *** What are you talking about? Unions not only force you to pay fees/dues for union operations but also donate to a political party you may or may not agree with, if you choose to not donate to the political party you automatically lose your right to vote and yet you still have to pay for the union. Remember taxation without representation…perhaps you need to read up on history…but you can’t demand that people pay for an institution (i.e. government or unions) and then take away their right to vote on that institution. That’s just plain wrong, if you can’t see that I doubt you can even claim to be an American.

  • Mike – [As a longtime fiscal conservative, I am disgusted by the Republicans who are pushing “right to work” legislation. It seems they are pandering to the left, yes, the left who want to be taken care of by govt. How? By eliminating union dies for those who don’t want to pay their fair share for representation. These govt. “leaders” who claim to be looking out for you tell you that you can negotiate your own compensation package by not being in the union in a union shop. Really? And you believe that the company is going to spend time and money negotiating with you when they are already negotiating with a union? What color is the sky in your world? Pay your fair share and be grateful someone smarter than you is negotiating for you!] *** I highly doubt you are a fiscal conservative…for some reason you jump to a conclusion that if a union doesn’t take care of people that government will have to…um, no people can take care of themselves. That assumption immediately removes any sort of fiscal conservative you might have had before suggesting such an idea. Yeah, it would just be impossible for a business to individually negotiate with each employee…oh wait, that’s how 90%+ of all private businesses operate and somehow they manage it. Why are you so afraid of government or union private businesses figuring out how to do the same thing the vast majority of businesses already do? When you start using the leftist terms like “fair share” it’s very obvious that you’re just a hard core democrat who claims to be fiscally conservative…remember what costs the most money in government…you’re right if you said salary and benefits for unions. This all comes down to personal freedoms, if someone doesn’t want the union then let them go and negotiate directly with the employer…this is about personal freedoms and individual rights and hopefully you can see that.

  • david

    Jefferson you need to stop the fox news tactic of using a partial quote out of context. NO ONE forces you to take a union job. There are other job opportunities out there. If you have an issue with the union, work someplace else. Your argument that unions diminish on your personal liberties is weak. It’s BS! Stop subverting the constitution for your narrow minded political gain. You are just as bad as the religious zealot misusing bible versions to impose their narrow minded views on others.

  • david

    And as for your statement that I can’t claim to be an American, thank you. If being a person able to think for my self, and not a simpleton, sheep like moron following the misguided herd you subscribe to I concur. If YOU represent America, I don’t want to lumped in under that monicker.

  • FLB

    .DID YOU EVER:

    Work a 40 hour week

    Received paid overtime

    Taken a paid sick day

    Had a payed vacation

    Had paid maternity leave

    Paid time off for a funeral

    Worked regular work hours

    Have money put away for retirement

    Or:

    Been passed over for a promotion that was given to the Bosses, nephew

    Worked side by side with somebody for 3 years and find out that he makes more per hour than you

    Work at a place for 25 years and get fired 3 weeks before you were going to retire

    Get fired because you are older and make more than college grad. that will work for half of what you make just he a job (any job is better than NO job.

    You get my point!

    Thank all the union members of the past for standing up and making things this good for everybody. And shame on us for forgetting their sacrifices

  • pete

    NO!

  • homefire

    I grew up in a right to work state and was a member of a teacher’s union. For several years I resisted the union and was charged a “fair share” amount in lieu of full dues. I was okay with that, because I understood that I benefited from union activities. Eventually I joined the union, but I worked from inside the union to move the focus of the union away from constant salary increases to other issued that improve teaching. I think people should be able to pay a “fair share” allotment short of full dues if the union can’t “win them over.” Unions fought against top-down authoritarianism and improved the workplace for us all, but when they begin to act as top-down authorities themselves, we need to question the process. Can we not evolve other means of communicating important values other than adversarial ones? Resist taking sides too quickly on this issue; its complex enough to examine pros and cons and question from both sides. Taking sides too quickly obscures any attempt at truly meaningful dialog.

  • Workers can opt out of dues and membership. Federal Law forces Unions to cover those that opt out, making them a financial burden. Non-union members only pay a small portion to cover the administrative costs. The question posed should be; Should Union members have to pick up the tab for their non-union co-workers? I say no.

    When I apply for a position, I consider pay along with benefits offered and expense. I would not accept a job and then try to force the cost of my benefits onto my co-workers which is what proponents of this amendment are attempting to do.

    Right to Work for Less is unsafe, unfair, and unnecessary.

  • Leann – [Workers can opt out of dues and membership. Federal Law forces Unions to cover those that opt out, making them a financial burden. Non-union members only pay a small portion to cover the administrative costs. The question posed should be; Should Union members have to pick up the tab for their non-union co-workers? I say no.

    When I apply for a position, I consider pay along with benefits offered and expense. I would not accept a job and then try to force the cost of my benefits onto my co-workers which is what proponents of this amendment are attempting to do.

    Right to Work for Less is unsafe, unfair, and unnecessary.] *** Leann, lets please be honest about the numbers and the facts…have you ever used health insurance? Health insurance is based on the idea of forcing the cost of your benefits on to your co-workers. Also, when you opt out of the union dues you are still paying 75-80% of the dues…you can’t tell me you should be paying the full salary of union heads who do much more than simply negotiate your benefits (including raising political capital, endorsing candidates, pushing political issues to name a few). Also, if you want to remain intellectually honest the individual who opts out should only be required to pay for the actual contract negotiations…only the salary for those negotiating for that time period when negotiations are occurring…if that happened you’d only pay around 5-10% of the full union membership when you opt out….instead of the current 75-80%. Besides, what prevents a business from negotiating directly with the individual workers (which is how it works for 90%+ of the private sector) who are not in the union? Why does that employee who opts out even need the union? How could you ask for union dues (or fees) in that type of situation? The individual should have the right to opt out of the union or not…the employer should have the choice to directly negotiate with the non-union employees or not; in that type of situation the individual worker owes the union nothing…if the employer is lazy and simply gives the same pay/benefits to all employees regardless of union membership you can hardly punish the individual (with union fees) who has no choice in the matter. When you really look at the right-to-work law it simply enables freedom from unions for all workers in all industries, you shouldn’t lose your constitutional right to assemble freely just because of your choice of a job.

  • Michael

    The constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of association is also the freedom to disassociate. Why should I be forced to join an organization that will surely spend my money on issues I disagree with? Forcing union membership, especially in cases where the unionization takes place after employment begins, is a blatant constitutional violation.

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