Thursday, December 13, 2012

States Don't Need Right-to-Work Laws

The state of Michigan continues to dominate news discussion of jobs and labor after the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a new law restricting the ability of unions to collect dues from workers and effectively turning Michigan - home of the auto industry and an original bastion of organized labor - into a Right-to-Work state.  This move follows similar changes to the law in Wisconsin and Indiana and has severely challenged the strength of labor unions.  Conservatives and Republicans tout these laws as a move to protect liberty, while liberals and Democrats paint it as a toxic attack on working people and a move by corporate America to further erode wages.

Certainly, there are reasons to oppose being "forced" to join a labor union.  Some people feel the union "does nothing for them" and they would rather not pay dues to an organization that they may not believe in.  Certainly, in the education field, many teachers support collective bargaining at the local and even state level but do not believe in or support the positions of the National Education Association (NEA).  At the same time, however, there are reasons to allow automatic deduction for fees related to contract work by the union or association.  If the union has negotiated the contract and work conditions, no worker should be able to benefit from those conditions with financially supporting the work that went into crafting them.

However, this issue should not be legislative, and the country should look to Colorado for guidance on Right-to-Work laws.  Colorado is not a Right-to-Work state, but it is also not a Not-Right-to-Work state.  In Colorado, the decisions on whether to require union membership and automatically deduct union dues from paychecks to pay for benefits such as collective bargaining are made on a shop-to-shop basis.  Each industry and/or company decides what works for its particular management and employees.

And this is the way it should be.

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