Right to work simply theft

To the Editor,

I have been reading a lot of information concerning right to work in the local papers. This also is referred to as the Workplace Freedom Act. I wonder just what it is that workers are “free” of. The Taft-Hartley Act that Congress enacted in 1947, commonly known as the Labor-Management Relations Act of the National Labor Relations Board, ended the closed shop in the workplace.

This act stated that no employee could be required, as a prerequisite for employment or retention, to join a union. Congress, at the same time it prevented closed shops, mandated that unions were still legally obligated to represent all bargaining unit employees, not just union members.

Congress realized that such action would allow nonmembers to gain all the benefits of union membership at no charge. They permitted the union to collect what are known as agency fees, or dues from nonunion members. These fees are necessary to cover the union’s cost of collective bargaining since the union was still legally obligated to represent these nonmember employees just as they would any union employee.

The act clearly states that nonunion members can be compelled to pay only that portion of union dues attributable to the actual cost of representing employees in collective bargaining and providing services given to union members. The unions cannot collect and nonunion employees are not required to pay fees other than what the cost of collective bargaining issues are, such as terms and conditions of employment and other items such as grievance and safety issues. The fees are not to be used for any political union activities as mandated by the Supreme Court in CWA vs. Beck (1988) case. The union also is obligated to inform you of this right and the procedure for exercising it.

So, if existing law is already in place and employees can refuse to join a union or opt out at any time, and the law prohibits unions from using fees for political activities, what does the Workplace Freedom Act do better to protect the rights of workers?

It appears that the Workplace Freedom Act is nothing more than a “freeloaders” act. It would enable employees to enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining but to not pay for them. I use the old axiom that if I wanted to join the chamber of commerce and enjoy all of its benefits, I should not be required to pay any dues for this privilege. I see no difference between this and being a freeloader in the workplace. You can coat it anyway you want, but right to work is an entitlement, or more simply put, a theft of bargained benefits.

Frank Papini

President, USW S.O.A.R.

Chapter 23-9