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Skirting the Right-to-Work

October 30, 2014

Right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being forced to join a union, pay union dues, or pay union representation fees. For unions, right-to-work laws mean they have to actually fight to retain customers – no more guaranteed income.

But with most unions, fighting for customer retention doesn’t mean lowering membership fees or increasing services. It means pressuring lawmakers and slighting members. This was recently on full display in Michigan.

In December 2012, the Michigan legislature passed a right-to-work law, despite the unions’ vehement opposition and protests at the Capitol necessitating riot squads. With the law set to take effect on March 28th, thousands of teachers were looking forward to being free of the union. But the union had one last trick up its sleeve.

Before the law could take effect, the union rushed to execute an unprecedented 10-year union contract that has now forced Michigan teachers to make payments to the union until 2023. In short, for these teachers, it will be as if the right-to-work law had never been passed.

In response to allegations of unethical behavior, the union’s representative said: “We operate under the laws of the land. They could have moved to make these laws take immediate effect. They did not do that.” In short, the union saw the writing on the wall and, rather than entice members to stay, chose to force them to stay under penalty of termination.

Arizona’s legislature has a bill before it now that would strengthen Arizona’s right-to-work laws by requiring public workers to annually opt-in before the government would remove union dues from workers’ paychecks. It’s a worthy objective. But because it affects the unions’ bottom lines, the unions have pulled out all the stops to oppose it.

Unions claim their opposition is all about members, and this has made some legislators apprehensive. But the Michigan incident is just the most recent evidence of one important fact that lawmakers should consider: unions are businesses, and businesses will always fight to protect their financial interests.

Learn more:

The Washington Examiner: Teachers say union cheated on first test of Michigan Right-to-Work law

The Arizona Republic: Darcy Olsen: Bill would stop unions from raiding paychecks

Arizona State Legislature: SB 1142



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