Okay, it’s not really shocking. Socialists of all stripes hate anything that allows individuals to make decisions. They prefer the collective take precedence. So it should come as no surprise that Sanders wants to outlaw Right to Work laws at the federal level if he wins the Oval Office.
The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 created the right for employees to organize into labor unions and collectively bargain with their employers. It also sets out the process by which a union becomes the representative of employees in a particular private employer. These unions are often called industrial unions.
It did not address unions that are now typically called “craft unions“. Historically they were called by other names, such as guilds. These unions employ members through a hall and manage the labor supply by controlling the number of participants and content of the training required. They also set the wages and manage the pensions and benefits their members are eligible for. Some examples include Plumbers, Pipefitters and Sheet Metal Workers unions. Employers then contract with the union to provide members.
Industrial unions typically receive members through the employer’s hiring process. The employee then receives the employers negotiated pay rates and other benefits. Some states have Union Shop laws. Under the laws, once an employee is hired into a unionized employer, they are required to pay union dues and become a member of the union.
Other states have Right to Work laws. The employer hires an employee and they have the right to choose whether or not to become a member of the union. It is actually up to the union to demonstrate it’s worth and convince the employee to part with their money.
People are often confused about what this does and doesn’t mean. A brief summary:
- All employees in a unionized employer a managed under the rules of the union contract whether or not they are a member
- An employer may not bargain with employees individually regarding terms and conditions of employment if they choose not to join the union
- A union is not automatically decertified if membership falls to extremely low levels.
So why would an employee choose not to join a union if they are subject to all the conditions of the union contract? Any number of reasons. A recent Supreme Court decision was based on an employee who did not want her money used for political donations she disagreed with. Perhaps the employee prefers the extra money in their check. The reason doesn’t matter.
Employees should have the right to free association. Union Shop laws are compulsory association. Employees should have the right to spend their wages as they see fit. Union dues are mandatory. They also deserve the right to free speech and should not be forced to make financial contributions in support of candidates and causes they disagree with.
Unions are essentially political machines. Democrats adore them because they have reliably turned out the vote. The interests of both parties are two-fold. Density and dues. More union members and financial support for union leaders and political action.
The hard fact is industrial unions have very little to market to employees. Most of the worker rights they fought for have been institutionalized. The Wage and Hour division of the EEOC and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) are key examples.
They have also become far less effective in negotiating wages and benefits. Most members of industrial unions contribute to their health insurance. Pensions have been converted to 401K’s. And annual salary increases do not exceed the market. Unions also cannot prevent job loss. All they can do is bargain the effects, or what laid-off workers will be entitled to in severance and other items.
Private employer unions comprise 6.4% of private company employees. This is a direct result of the lack of a value proposition to attract new members. The primary value is to underperforming employees who become very hard to terminate thanks to work rules.
The loss of political and financial power for private sector unions is no excuse for Sanders to limit fundamental rights for individual employees. Right to Work laws are actually a sign of progress for worker rights.
Unfortunately, a dedicated collectivist like Sanders can’t see individual rights. And has no problem taking them away.
*Disclosure: The author spent 15 years as a management representative in union and non-union employers.