Setting the Record Straight On Rights of Non-Union Members

Much of the propaganda being launched into the air by supporters of the Michigan “right-to-work” coup suggests that the law liberates workers from an obligation to join unions, and/or from the nefarious socialist political activity of “union bosses.” To set the record straight, here’s the AFL-CIO’s Associate General Counsel, Lawrence E. Gold (quote supplied via an email):

As of now in MI (i.e., before any law change), people who choose a job with union representation but don’t want to be part of the union can decline to be members. The change in MI represents an end to the bargaining option between a union and an employer to require that any non-member pay his or her fair share of the union’s costs of bargaining and representation. That requirement is usually negotiated because, by law, the union must fully represent non-members no differently from members, and non-members receive the same wages and benefits as members. In all cases, only union members pay the costs for union political and lobbying activities.

The right-to-work law doesn’t resolve some coercion problem. It creates a free-rider problem. And lest we forget, this is a government intervention in the right of employers and employees to freely engage in a labor contract.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.