Without Right to Work, Employees Must Bankroll Unions That Harm Them
Key Fact Regarding Impact of Labor Laws Authorizing Forced Union Dues and Fees as an Employment Condition Is Undisputed, But Not Consistently Acknowledged
If Big Labor were honest about why it opposes national and state legislation protecting employees’ Right to Work, union officials would acknowledge that their wish is to force all employees who are subject to union monopoly control in the workplace to pay union dues or fees, most definitely including workers who are economically hurt by unionization.
There is simply no denying the fact that the so-called “exclusive” bargaining system authorized and promoted by federal labor law, and the laws of many states, empowers union bosses to undercut the economic interests of some or even most of the employees under their control to further the union’s institutional interests.
And there is no denying the fact that union officials routinely take advantage of this special privilege.
Teacher Union Handbook: The National Education Association and Its Subsidiaries Oppose ‘Providing Additional Compensation to Attract and/or Retain Education Employees in Hard-to-Recruit Positions’
In fact, just a little over five years ago, when the U.S. Supreme Court was receiving briefs in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a challenge to the constitutionality of forced union dues and fees in the government sector, both sides agreed substantial numbers of employees get paid less as a consequence of being subject to union monopoly bargaining.
Citing the NEA Handbook, the independent-minded teacher plaintiffs in Friedrichs noted that officers of the National Education Association (NEA) union and its subsidiaries oppose “‘providing additional compensation to attract and/or retain education employees in hard-to-recruit positions’” and paying teachers more if they perform better.
Neither the union bosses nor the California public officials (led by then-Attorney General Kamala Harris) who were defending the constitutionality of the Golden State’s forced-dues policies contested the fact that many teachers get paid less due to union monopoly bargaining. And Harris and her associates actually confirmed in their reply brief that union officials “do have substantial latitude to advance bargaining positions that . . . run counter to the economic interests of some employees”!
Teamster Activist: “How Am I Supposed to Convince the Part-Timers to Move Into This Position to Pay Their Union Dues [in Right to Work Wisconsin] When They’re Sitting Here Getting Sold Out?”
Friedrichs directly concerned government unions and how they operate, but the fact is that federal labor policy accords basically the same privileges to private-sector union bosses that laws in states like California and New Hampshire accord to government union bosses, and private-sector union bosses also often wield such privileges to benefit certain favored employees at other employees’ expense.
For example, as Huffington Post contributor Dave Jamieson noted at the time, the contract forged for Teamster- “represented” UPS workers in 2018 created a new class of “hybrid” drivers who spend part of their time sorting packages and the rest of it delivering them out of a truck.
Their pay is significantly less than that of full-time drivers, and they don’t enjoy the same limits on overtime.
In his report on the contract, Jamieson quoted a union activist in Right to Work Wisconsin who found it perfectly understandable that UPS employees who aren’t full-time drivers would not want to continue bankrolling the union that helped create the new “two-tier” system:
“How am I supposed to convince the part-timers who move into this position to pay their union dues when they’re sitting here getting sold out?”
As anyone who is familiar with her labor-policy record knows, now-Vice President Kamala Harris virulently opposes Right to Work laws. Dave Jamieson’s disdain for Right to Work laws is also manifest.
Yet both of them have effectively admitted that blocking Right to Work keeps it legal for Big Labor to get employees fired for refusing to bankroll a union that does nothing for them economically, or actually hurts them.
‘Entire Value of Labor Organization to the Workers Lives in the Power of the Workers to Control Their Representatives’
As Donald Richberg, coauthor of the 1926 Railway Labor Act and of the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933, a precursor to the National Labor Relations Act, recognized, the “entire value of labor organization to the workers lies” in the “power of workers to control their representatives.” And Samuel Gompers, the founder and first president of the American Federation of Labor, was undoubtedly striving to protect workers’ interests when he urged of his fellow union officers during his final address to an AFL convention in 1924 “devotion to the fundamentals of human liberty – the principles of voluntarism.” Gompers’ next words were prophetic: “No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion.”
Unfortunately, during recent legislative battles over Right to Work, neither the wisdom displayed by Richberg and Gompers nor the candor displayed in 2015 by Harris and in 2018 by Jamieson is ever seen from Big Labor and its apologists.
If union officials believe they must oppose Right to Work, that’s their prerogative. But they ought at least to join Harris and Jamieson in acknowledging what actually happens under the forced-dues status quo.
Author Stan Greer is the National Institute for Labor Relations Research’s senior research associate. He may reached by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 703-321-9606. Nothing here is to be construed as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before Congress or any state legislature.
 578 U.S. ___, (2016).
 Friedrichs, Brief for the Petitioners on Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Sep. 4, 2015, pp. 33-44, see esp. p. 35.
 Friedrichs, Brief for the Union Respondents on Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Nov. 6, 2015.
 Friedrichs, Brief for the Attorney General of California on Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Nov. 6, 2015.
 Ibid, p. 16.
 Dave Jamieson, “A New UPS Union Contract Shows How Online Shopping Is Dragging Down Delivery Jobs,” Huffington Post, August 4, 2018.
 See, e.g., Patrick Gleason, “Biden and Senate Democrats announce Right-to-Work Laws Are on the Chopping Block If They Win,” Forbes Online, October 21, 2020.
 In the very article where he documented how Teamster bosses had sold out vast numbers of workers rather than agree to an across-the-board modification of fringe benefits, Jamieson smeared the motives of Wisconsin employees who exercise their freedom under state law to refuse to bankroll a union they don’t want.
 Donald Richberg, “Free Men vs. the Compulsory Union Shop,” The Freeman, Extra Edition, July 16, 1951.
 American Federationist, Volume 32, Issue 1 (1925), p. 166.