The Right To Work

Unlike most Democrats, I’ve been a union member.  I grew up in a union household.  I’ve got less against unions that most people.

Of course, in the private sector unions are largely irrelevant, especially outside of manufacturing and the large-scale trades.  I’ve been in the private sector my whole career, and I’ve only encountered a few union shops, much less members.  I was in a union for the duration of my only government job (a semester as a community college adjunct instructor), which is in keeping with most Americans’ experience; while unions are under 8% of the private sector workforce, they’re around 40% in government, mostly AFSCME, SEIU and the various teachers and academic unions.  About one in nine Americans overall are involved in unions.

And a large part of even that is because of the “closed shop”; in about half of American states, unions are allowed to require that industries only hire union workers.

And that’s what “Right to Work” is all about.  Under the closed-shop system, the unions never have to make a case to the workers for why they should join the union; it’s like it or lump it.  In Right to Work states, they have to prove their value to the workers.

The closed shop is all about the money, of course;  your dues money goes where the union wants it to go; while a little under half of union members identify as Republicans, 92% of their political donations go to Democrats, who in turn keep passing laws (when they’re in power) to make unions more powerful.  It’s a mutual back-scratching arrangement between the Democrat party and its biggest institutional supporters.

Minnesota is a “closed shop” state, meaning that legislators who owed their election to union money passed laws allowing industries, and government, to establish closed shops – legal monopolies, if you will, in the labor market.  In exchange, naturally, for keeping the money coming.

Republicans in the Minnesota Legislature are working to abolish the “closed shop” laws, which do very little to represent workers, and even less to create jobs (as a rule they cost jobs), but plenty to keep one political party awash in involuntary contributions.

The bill is currently in play:

St. Paul- Senator Dave Thompson (R-Lakeville) and Representative Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) announced the introduction of a constitutional amendment that would give Minnesotans the opportunity to vote on whether or not Minnesota workers should have the freedom to join a union or not. Currently, if someone is hired by a company with a collective bargaining agreement in place, that person is required to join the union or pay fair share dues.

“In Minnesota law, if a worker refuses to pay union dues, they are fired. This isn’t fair and it’s definitely not free,” Representative Drazkowski said. “To me, this is the most important pro-jobs bill we can pass this session. It’s estimated that had Minnesota passed this amendment 30 years ago, the average Minnesota working family would be earning an additional $7,000 or more every year. Nearly 70% of Minnesotans support employee freedom – let’s allow the people to decide whether they want to guarantee this fundamental right in our constitution.”

Minnesota’s left – the unions, and the DFL and “non-profits” they own, like “Take Action Minnesota” – are telling you that most Minnesotans oppose the amendment.  It’s a bald-faced lie, of course; Minnesotans support “right to work” legislation by a 2:1 margin according to Survey USA, and closer to 3:1 according to Rasmussen.

Unions make sense – but only as an element of a free market, a means of helping labor market and price its services.  But there is no reason that unions should be a de-facto arm of government (or, as they are in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, vice versa).

So it makes sense, right?

Here’s the problem.  Some Republicans in the Minnesota Senate are going squishy.  It’s understandable, to an extent; going after the closed shop is going to stir up a hornets nest of union activism and money.  No legislator, least of all one in a “Moderate” district, wants to face that.  But with right-to-work legislation popping up all over the Midwest, even the unions, rich as they are, have their limits. The time to go after the Closed Shop and push for Right to Work is now, because for the first time, we won’t be alone.  

If not now. when?

So if you support Right to Work, you need to do two things:

Contact your State Senator and encourage them to support Right to Work.  You can bet they’re getting an earful from people in purple T-shirts; if the unions do one thing well, it’s make their people put on t-shirts and go out and wave signs and chant and stomp their feet and act like they care about politics.  They need to hear from the vast majority of Minnesotans who speak for the rest of us.  Find your Senator; drop them an email, or (much) better yet, call or write a paper letter.  Encourage them to support the Right to Work amendment.

Contact the Senators on the Jobs And Economic Growth Committee.  They’ll be holding hearings on the bill, mostly likely this week.  They break out into three groups:

  • Conservative Republicans who need to be encouraged to remember that there’s a lot of support for Right to Work out there: Senators   Lillie,   Daley,  DeKruif,   Howe,  Miller, and  Nelson are all first-term freshmen; they could use calls to make they know where voters stand.  Senator John C. Pederson is a freshman, but under intense union pressure in a GOP district with a big knot of DFL/union support in the middle; he could use a lot of moral support.
  • Upperclass and “Moderate” Republicans who need to know that there’s a tailwind behind this amendment: We’re talking about committee chair Geoff Michel; a moderate from a “purple” district who is always targeted not only from the DFL but from conservatives in the GOP, he also has extra clout as the chair; he needs to know that Minnesotans will support him in supporting the amendment.
  • Metrocrats: Don’t bother.  None of them are doing anything this session but riding out time to try and earn that pension.  Senators Metzen, Dziedzic, Kelash, Tomassoni and Torres-Ray are fully owned by the unions; trying to change their vote might actually be chargeable as a property crime in Ramsey County.

And so if you’re a Minnesotan who supports the Right to Work, there’s your mission for this week.

Be polite.  Whether by email or (much better) by phone or snail mail, be concise and to the point; the staffer that takes the call is very busy, and we’re going to make them busier.  Make your point, wish ’em a nice day, and move along to the next Senator.

There’ll be more – Voter ID, Stand Your Ground – in coming days and weeks. But for this week, if you want to actually do something useful for a better, less-expensive Minnesota, that’s a big chunk of the job, right there.

So let’s get on it!

8 thoughts on “The Right To Work

  1. “Minnesota’s left – the unions, and the DFL and “non-profits” they own, like “Take Action Minnesota” – are telling you that most Minnesotans oppose the amendment. It’s a bald-faced lie, of course…”

    Wait untli the DFL’s House Organ, the RedStar Tribune, does its first Minnesota Poll. We’ll be hip-deep in lies.

    Ex-AFSCME member bump here.

  2. So now we have to pass a referendum to allow people the freedom not to join a union. Wait a minute – I thought the gay marriage folks told us that we “don’t vote on civil rights”.

  3. I’m all for “Right to Work”, but is amending the MN Constitution the way to do it?

    Maybe sweeten the amendment pot by making government worker unions unconstitutional?

  4. Dave M.,

    Yes, in the strict sense of the term, but there are loopholes that mean the same thing from a financial perspective. Hence many of us who work or have worked in highly unionized fields covered by Taft Hartley still refer to them as closed shops, even though strictly they are not.

    For example – the fact that “fair share” for a teacher is only 10% lower for teachers that choose to be non-union (with all the risks that entails, which I”ll treat as a separate issue), while the dues are compulsory either way and all go to the same destination mean that while teaching isn’t a “closed shop” by, from a union finance perspective there is no difference.

  5. For my first real job (outside of being a soccer referee) I was forced into signing a union contract I didn’t want to, as a bag boy for a local grocery store (Jerry’s foods in Edina, please don’t shop there). The only reason I said yes was because I really needed a job and had no other prospective employment at that point in time or else I would have to them to shove it. I did meet some great people there but I finally quit in spectacular fashion and have absolutely no regrets

  6. Speaking specifically about the Right to Work:

    If the law states that employees who opt out of union membership will be treated as “at will” employees who will not necessarily be offered a union contract and union-negotiated benefits (an employer’s choice), then bring it on. If “at will” workers choose to work for less pay and benefits than their unionized counterparts, then so be it.

    The union also has the freedom to choose to compete in that marketplace by eliminating the areas of concern that tempt employees view “at will” as the better option. It’s merely marketplace competition.

    I don’t know if that is what is being said. If it’s merely a “take the pay and benefits but don’t join or pay the union that negotiated them” law then I would oppose it.

    Nevertheless, it’s not a constitutional issue.

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