The NYT began an article discussing a "right to work" measure in Minnesota by describing it as a "measure ... that would allow workers to avoid paying fees to unions they choose not to join." It would have been helpful to remind readers that under federal law a union is legally obligated to represent all the workers in a bargaining unit regardless of whether or not they choose to join the union.

This rule means that workers who do not join the union not only gain from whatever wage and benefit increases the union negotiates with the employer, they also are entitled to the union's representation in any disputes that are covered under the contract. For example, if the employer wants to discipline or fire a worker who is not a member of the union, the union is obligated to represent this worker in the same way as if they were a dues paying member of the union.

In this context, the Minnesota measure means that workers who support a union can effectively be required to pay for the representation of workers who do not support the union. This is not an obvious step toward promoting individual freedom.

Contrary to what the article asserts, every worker in Minnesota can already "avoid paying fees to unions they choose not to join." They have the option to not work at a company where there is a union contract that requires workers to pay for their union representation.

This measure is about taking away rights, not extending them. If it were approved, workers would no longer have the right to sign a contract that required that everyone who benefited from union representation paid for this representation. This is a case of the government interfering with freedom of contract.

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