While the debate over right-to-work has little to do with logic and facts and everything to do with curtailing organized labor’s political power by depriving it of revenue, there is one claim right-to-work advocates such as last Sunday’s columnist Mitch Henck make that has superficial appeal.
Why shouldn’t unions simply exercise their legal rights to form “members only” unions? Then there wouldn’t be any of the “freeloaders” unions complain about who benefit by union representation but who don’t pay dues.
As an attorney who has represented unions for over 35 years, it seems to me the problem with this approach is that it ignores the legal reality that a union cannot simply decide to become a “members” only union that does not represent non-members. A union must ask the employer to voluntarily recognize it as a representative of members only.
Employers have a strong economic incentive not to voluntarily agree to have any type of union. If an employer agreed to recognize a “members only” union, that union would bargain for better wages and benefits than those received by nonmembers.
The employer who agrees to this will face all kinds of headaches. It will have to administer two different wage and benefit policies. More important, nonmembers who work under the inferior wages and benefits will have considerable incentive to join the union to improve their lot.
If members-only unions were the solution, then why are there none in existence in right-to-work states? It’s not because unions are power hungry. It’s simple economics.
— Kurt C. Kobelt, Madison
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