The 'freeloader' fantasy within the right-to-work debate

When Michigan Democrats narrowly gained the state Home and state Senate in November’s election, one of many first issues organized labor pushed for them to do was repeal the state’s right-to-work regulation. And a key cause cited towards this regulation is to power “freeloaders” to pay their fair proportion of bargaining. However this argument is legendary and counter to how unions truly act.

Michigan’s right-to-work regulation, handed a decade in the past, makes it unlawful to require staff to hitch or financially help a union simply to maintain their job. Since 2012, in response to federal filings from unions, at the least 140,000 individuals have withdrawn from organized labor in Michigan. It’s one in every of 27 states that give staff a selection concerning union membership. 

A standard declare from unions and others against right-to-work legal guidelines is that staff who choose out of a union get the advantages of the contract whereas refusing to pay for it — that’s, they’re “freeloaders” or “free riders.” This criticism is usually heard from unions and elected officers. Michigan’s largest academics’ union, for instance, has known as these resigning their membership “freeloaders” dozens of instances.

However this argument is disingenuous and false. Unions particularly struggle, in court docket and legislatures, to signify all staff, whether or not they pay dues or not. And unions spend solely a small share of the cash they obtain on bargaining for and immediately representing staff anyway.

Not one of the largest unions in america spend most of their cash immediately representing staff, in response to their newest federal filings, The AFL-CIO stories spending $16.3 million on “representational actions” — feels like lots, however it is just 11 p.c of their whole income. The Nationwide Training Affiliation (NEA) stories spending about $38 million on direct illustration for his or her almost 2.9 million members, however that’s solely 6.2 p.c of their whole income. The NEA spends extra on political exercise than it does on employee illustration.

Different unions spend related paltry quantities, together with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Staff, or AFSCME (15.5 p.c), Teamsters (22.2 p.c) and United Meals Service Staff (12.1 p.c). Solely the Service Staff Worldwide Union, or SEIU (41.4 p.c) and American Federation of Academics (32.2 p.c) spend almost one-third or extra of their income on “representational actions.”  

This holds true in Michigan. The Michigan branches of the American Federation of Academics (AFT) and AFSCME spent probably the most representing staff at almost 40 p.c of income. However the United Auto Staff spent lower than one-third. The Michigan Training Affiliation spends 25 p.c. The United Meals Staff spent about 15 p.c. In whole, organized labor in Michigan brings in additional than $200 million — cash that’s principally spent on issues aside from direct representational actions.

It isn’t Michigan’s right-to-work regulation that’s answerable for requiring unions to signify nonmembers. Totally different state legal guidelines grant unions the privilege of being the “unique bargaining consultant” for all workers in a office, member and nonmember alike. Makes an attempt to alter the regulation to let unions keep away from representing nonmembers had been made in 2016 and 2017 however didn’t move.

The kicker is that unions oppose altering the regulation. The Michigan Training Affiliation was requested immediately whether or not they needed “to be relieved of representing those that’ve opted out of the union” and responded with a easy “No.”

Certainly, almost each main union within the nation opposes altering the regulation on this manner. The NEA, AFT, AFSCME and SEIU all signed on to a short to the U.S. Supreme Courtroom acknowledging that “unique illustration” offers them “a privileged place in negotiations over wages, advantages and dealing circumstances” and that representing those that’ve opted out of union membership “is a “obligatory concomitant” to that.

If unions genuinely believed they had been harmed by having to signify nonmembers, they might simply alleviate the harm by giving up their unique bargaining privileges. They don’t and gained’t, and so all their bellyaching ought to be taken with a grain of salt.

Staff who choose out of union membership aren’t “free riders.” Actually, it could be extra correct to label them “compelled riders.” That’s as a result of these workers, below present state and federal regulation, haven’t any selection however to simply accept their union’s illustration. In different phrases, they’re not getting something free of charge; they’re compelled to simply accept one thing they don’t need.

Michigan’s new Democratically managed legislature finally might attempt to repeal the state’s right-to-work regulation. That will power a whole bunch of hundreds of Michigan staff to pay unions towards their will. This would offer a giant increase to union financial institution accounts, who overwhelmingly help Democrats in elections. But it surely gained’t repair any “free rider drawback,” as a result of there wasn’t one to start with.

Jarrett Skorup is senior director of selling and communications for the Mackinac Heart for Public Coverage in Midland, Mich. Comply with him on Twitter @JarrettSkorup.