Right To Work At Risk

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Are Right to Work Laws at risk?   National Right to Work president Mark Mix and others testified just last week at a hearing in the Education and the Workforce Committee that Right to Work laws in 25 states could be at risk, as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) argues to institute a rule allowing union bosses to require nonunion members pay for grievance processing.  Michael J. Lotito and Ilyse Schuman have the story in ASAPs.

The impetus for the hearing was the Board’s April 16 invitation for public comment on whether it should adopt a rule allowing unions to require nonunion members to pay fees for grievance processing. According to Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN), this shift in long-standing labor policy would undermine employee protections provided under state right-to-work laws. He said the NLRB “has a clear agenda of growing private-sector union membership at any cost.”

At the outset of the hearing, Kline explained that an employee’s grievance process is outlined in the collective bargaining agreement, and nonunion members are bound to these requirements whether or not they voted for the union in the first place. Nonunion members have no other recourse to resolve their grievances.

Currently, 25 states—most recently Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan—have enacted right-to-work laws, which prevent union membership and the payment of union dues from being conditions of employment. Kline said he found it “deeply troubling” that the administration was attempting to “undermine a policy embraced by workers and state leaders across the country.” He noted that the NLRB has “a track record of seizing routine cases” as vehicles for imposing “sweeping changes” to existing labor policy. Kline and others expressed certainty that the Board will eventually determine unions can solicit grievance fees from nonmembers.

One witness who agreed with this sentiment was Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, who termed the NLRB’s actions a “new and serious threat.” Ricketts claimed being a right-to-work state is an important tool to attract businesses, and that right-to-work states in general offer a competitive advantage over non-right-to-work states.  Ricketts framed the issue as one of employee choice, and said the NLRB’s proposed change in policy would constitute a direct attack on the rights of the 25 right-to-work jurisdictions: “the NLRB is threatening to usurp the power of states and impose fees on free people through Board fiat.”

Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Committee, emphasized the issue is not between labor and management, but between unions and workers. He said right-to-work laws offer the “simple freedom to choose whether or not to financially support the labor union that has imposed its monopoly power over you.”  Permitting a “fee-for-grievance” scheme would effectively allow unions to extract fees that could exceed union dues, leaving the right-to-work laws on the books, albeit in emasculated form.

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