Thursday, October 07, 2010

Legislation Introduced to Strip States of "Right to Work" Status

The newsletter LaborUnionReport.com  reports that California Congressman Brad Sherman (D) has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to strip states that are "right-to-work" states of that status. There are 22 states that are considered "right to work" as shown in red in the picture above. This was a state right granted in 1947 by the Taft-Hartly Act, an amendment to the National Labor Relations Act. (Taft-Hartly is officially the Labor-Management Relations Act, and it granted managment rights where none had been.)

Briefly, what "right to work" means is this. Employees in every state of the US have the right to organize a union. If they do so, two different conditions exist, depending on whether they are in a "right to work" state or a non-right to work state. In a non-RTW state an employee, in order to hold their job, must belong to the union if that job is covered by the union contract. They have no choice. When I was the HR manager in a union plant in Chicago, if I hired someone for a job and wanted to keep them after their probationary period, they had to become a union member otherwise I had to fire them. If that had been here in Georgia, a RTW state, they would have had the choice to become a member of the union. Regardless of their choice however, they would have kept their job. So it is a matter of freedom of choice for the employee. Some places they have that freedom of choice, other places they do not.

Congressman Sherman, who represents California, a non right-to-work state, says that it is unfair to California to have to compete with RTW states for jobs. He says it is costing California because companies are moving away and taking jobs with them. (Of course he doesn't mention the overburdensome employment laws, taxes or broken government in California. Employment laws in California are so different there is a separate PHR designation for CA) So, with the support and endorsement of the AFL-CIO, he has introduced legislation in Congress to strip ALL rights from the other 22 states that had the foresight to pass right-to-work legislation.

I would like to suggest to Congressman Sherman that perhaps there should be an introduction to make all states RIGHT TO WORK. This will level the playing field as well, potentially lower the cost for businesses, take away restrictive practices, and give employees a true free choice to belong to a union or not. If a company then has a union in place they will truly deserve it. But if employees do not wish to belong to one there will be no pressure of Job/No Job decisions.

Of course with a 100% endorsement of the AFL-CIO I doubt whether this option ever entered Rep. Sherman's wallet....errr... head.

3 comments:

Greg said...

Mike,
This is a great post. This is also just unbelievable that someone would introduce this kind of legislation. As a practicioner in the labor relations field, every union tries to get language in the first contract that makes the bargaining unit a closed shop meaning employees have to join just like you pointed out in non RTW states. Even though the language is meaningless, unions generally want to keep it in just in case the law changes. This is what the "left coast" liberal is proposing. With the administration owned by unions, people need to write, call and visit their representatives to insure this does not happen. The impact on business would be devistating. More job losses, outsourcing, closures and economic hardship.

Adrianna said...

Does this apply to all employees including managment in a non-RTW state?

I worked for a small, non-profit agency in which out of the 8 persons in the office, it appeared that only 4 (the non-management staff) were required to be in a Union. I was a case manager (social worker) in a Workforce Training Program agency that povided job readiness training and did have a GED program with GED teachers, and I was told I had to join the UAW. Outside of it being afiliated with the AFL-CIO, it didn't make sense. If any union I would have thought for the instructors to be in the Teacher's Union but a case manager? In my previous position as a Clinical Worker (same state) I was not asked to be in a Union, and I worked in the Public School System with another non-profit.

A secondary question then: the 4 of us did not want to be in the Union, but we were not instructed if we could say no or "opt out" as the group. Is it possible to dissolve Union involvement if all working parties who are enrolled no longer want it dispite management and it not being a RTW state?

(All we really "participated" in was paying dues, and the Union rep came in once to discuss that due to the economy we were not able to get an increase, were we feeling as if we were being treated fairly? - it ended up that we did not see any pay raises for 3 years but the Union did not have any issues with the employer.

So $50 per month "dues" went for exactly the same outcome that happened with the previous position when there was a pay freeze...I found another job. Another (same state) where I was not asked to join a union and did basicly the same job.)

Thanks.

Michael D. Haberman, SPHR said...

Adrianna:
You ask some good questions. Managers, supervisors, HR, and executives are not allowed to belong to a union. In Right to Work states if you are designated as working in the group covered by the union you do have the right to opt out of the union.

There is no rhyme nor reason of which union can organize a company, so Teamsters can organize teachers, truck drivers, marijuana growers or whatever.

There is a mechanism for employees to get rid of a union, even one that the company invited in. It is called decertification.

You got a good lesson in the value of a union... which is... little to none. They collect your dues.