Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel Editors: Why the ‘Rush’ to Protect Employees From Being Forced to Pay Dues For Harmful ‘Representation’?


In an editorial this Tuesday (see the link below to read the whole thing) attempting to pour cold water on efforts to make Wisconsin the 25th Right to Work state, the Big Labor-friendly editors of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (MJS) at least acknowledge that Right to Work laws “offer workers the freedom to choose to be in a union.”

But the MJS editors clearly don’t think that the individual employee’s freedom of choice is very important:

It seems to us, on balance, that right-to-work isn’t much of a benefit . . . .  Why some Republicans insist on fighting this divisive battle in this state at this time is puzzling.

Why is it so hard for the pundits on the editorial board of the largest newspaper in Wisconsin’s largest city to understand that vast numbers of their fellow citizens believe it is a gross injustice that an estimated 186,000 of the residents of their state are forced to pay dues or fees to the union in their workplace, whether they want it or not?

As the MJS editors surely know, under federal law, private-sector employees in Wisconsin and every other state can be forced to accept union “representation” at the bargaining table, even if they never voted for the union and would never join voluntarily.  Under Wisconsin law, public employees can similarly be forced under union monopoly bargaining, although thanks to Act 10, except in public-safety and public-transportation departments, the scope of union bargaining is now quite narrow and dues are voluntary.

Moreover, as a number of leading labor-law scholars of diverse views have acknowledged over the years, workers who don’t want a union are “often actually made worse off” than they were before by union monopoly bargaining. The late University of Pennsylvania law professor Clyde Summers, citing fellow monopolistic unionism supporter Sheldon Leader, used those precise words in a 1995 review article.

Summers went on to elaborate:

Full-timers may bargain to limit the jobs of part-timers, seniority provisions may disadvantage younger workers, and wage increases of the low skilled may be at the expense of the highly skilled. . . . Determining whether the long-term benefits to a particular employee are greater than the burdens and risks of union membership is practically impossible.

The MJS editors justify their “puzzlement” regarding the announced plans of several Wisconsin legislators to push for Right to Work votes this year on the grounds that they don’t think making unionism voluntary would spur compensation and job growth.  For reasons I’ll explain in a separate post next week, I disagree with the MJS editors about the likely economic impact of a Wisconsin Right to Work law.

But even if the MJS editors think a Right to Work law will bring no economic benefit, isn’t the benefit of empowering workers to refuse to pay a union for “representation” that they reasonably believe harms them sufficient?  And why exactly is furnishing employees with such a basic freedom in the workplace a reform that the editors think can be put off indefinitely?

If the MJS editors believe that Summers, Leader and other scholars who have expressed similar views regarding how unwanted union representation affects workers are wrong, then they should explain why.  And if they don’t think eliminating forced dues for harmful union “representation” is an urgent matter, they should certainly elaborate on that.


As top labor-law scholars like the late professor Clyde Summers have repeatedly acknowledged over the years, under union monopoly bargaining, workers who don’t want a union are “often actually made worse off” than they were before. Image:

At best, right-to-work is a questionable idea