Unions already voluntary

To the Editor,

The right to work legislation being pushed through the West Virginia legislature will do exactly the opposite of what it promises; these laws take freedom away from working class families. First a bit of labor law, union membership is already voluntary, forced membership has been illegal in the U.S. for decades. Anyone who does not wish to be a union member needs only to sign a one-page form invoking their Beck rights and they are out of the union. Federal law requires that the union must represent every employee equally, so these opted out workers can still expect to work under the union contracts protections, receive the union benefits, health care and retirement and they can still file grievances through the union and the union will still represent them in arbitration. To fund all these benefits, a compromise was reached that nonunion members pay a fair-share fee that must be kept in a separate account and can only be spent on representational activities, not a dime of it can go into funding political or community activity. It all sounds pretty fair to me – you pay a small fee, you get the services the law requires the union provide and none of your money goes into funding political activity you don’t agree with.

Right to work, despite its name, does absolutely nothing to change the employment relationship, it only removes the union’s right to charge fair share fees for the services it provides. I’m a dues-paying union member and I will be regardless of right to work passing or not. I support my union’s political and community activities – in the past year, we have helped the Red Cross install working smoke detectors in the homes of underprivileged families, we have held a benefit run to raise money for an injured co-worker, we held a car show in September to raise money for the Urban Mission and we have done many other things to help our community.

I’m proud of my union, our community activity and the work we do to ensure working people have a voice on the job and in the political arena. I want part of my dues money to fund these activities, if right to work passes, the government will and force me to use my dues money to support the benefits of people who want nothing to do with my union. If this isn’t rampant government overreach, I don’t know what it is, how can the government require that I pay for representation of people who don’t want to pay for it themselves? How can our state legislators, who ran on the principles of small government and constitutional law, condone this massive government infringement of my rights?

If someone doesn’t want to belong to a union, or at least pay his or her share for what the union provides, then they shouldn’t force me to cover their costs. The real goal of right to work isn’t and has never been worker freedom, it about the government forcing me and tens of thousands of proud union workers like me to pay for free riders so that we can’t afford to exercise our freedom of speech and fight for all working people.

Ryan Omaits

President

Brooke-Hancock Central Labor Council

West Virginia AFL-CIO