Why Wisconsin Right to Work
Mike Nichols, president of the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, makes the case for a Wisconsin Right to Work law.
Even if you donâ€™t pay the union, youâ€™ll still be part of the â€œbargaining unit,â€ the union leaders would argue. Youâ€™ll still â€œbenefitâ€ from the collective bargaining process. So pony up.
I declined for a variety of reasons. The union, I concluded, wasnâ€™t boosting my pay. It was holding it down by repeatedly asking the company to spend whatever money was available on across-the-board salary increases rather than just merit pay; if I screwed up somehow, I wanted to speak for myself; if I was going to donate money to a cause â€“ something reporters and columnists are normally dissuaded from doing â€“ I didnâ€™t want that cause to be part of a national union that pushed a political agenda I disagreed with.
I never did join the union. I also never stopped wondering how in the world union leaders had the right to represent me at the bargaining table if I didnâ€™t want them to. The answer might surprise some people and shed some light on just what right-to-work legislation would mean for workers in this state â€” and what it wouldnâ€™t.
Right-to-work legislation would have absolutely no impact on so-called â€œopen shopsâ€ such as the one in the Journal Sentinel newsroom, according to Fred Gants, a Madison labor and employment lawyer for Quarles and Brady.
Right-to-work legislation, according to Gants, would only prevent companies and unions from setting up â€œunionâ€ shops, also sometimes referred to as â€œagency shopsâ€â€” places where employees must pay union dues â€“ at least that portion of dues that is not spent on political causes or lobbying â€“ as a condition of employment.
In other words, even if right-to-work legislation is adopted, Wisconsin workers will still be able to form and join unions if they so choose. And under federal law, once a union is formed, it would still bargain on behalf of its non-union co-workers. The only difference: nobody could be forced to pay dues. All union shops would become open.
The burgeoning debate over right-to-work is really over two different things: the rights that workers, either as individuals or collectively, should have in the workplace; and whether right-to-work states are more conducive or less conducive to long-term prosperity. The only thing that would have bothered me more than being forced into the bargaining unit would have been being forced to pay dues.