Mike Kueber's Blog

February 3, 2012

Right-to-Work laws

Filed under: Business,Issues,Law/justice,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:54 pm

Indiana has become the 23rd state in the U.S. to adopt a right-to-work law.    A Wikipedia chart reveals that virtually all of those 23 states are red, Republican states, while most of the so-called “free collective bargaining” states are blue, Republican states. 

Yesterday, the NY Times posted a blog entry by Andrew Rosenthal titled, “The War on Organized Labor.”   According to the entry, “Slowly but surely, across the country, Republican governors and state legislatures are making progress in their war against labor unions, especially ones that represent public employees.” Rosenthal concedes that, “Unions will reduce a company’s profits somewhat, because they get higher wages for workers,” but counters that “economists have found that unionization has a minimal impact on growth and employment.”

Rosenthal also laments the spread of Wisconsin-style assault on public-employee unions from Wisconsin to Arizona, where Republican lawmakers are pushing a bill that would ban collective bargaining for public-sector employees.  In an effort to provide a balanced analysis, Rosenthal provided the following quote from someone who opposed public-employee unions:

  • Proponents of the anti-union laws have told me it’s reprehensible for public employees to negotiate over wages, benefits and working conditions when their employer is the government to which we all pay taxes. When I ask, how is that different from negotiating with any employer, the answer I generally get is “it just is.”

Rosenthal concludes his blog entry by noting:

  • Unions have over-reached in many ways, clinging to wage-and-benefits agreements that are simply untenable in today’s economy. But they are fundamental to maintaining fairness for workers. And governors in many states, including New York, have managed to get concessions from public employee unions without outlawing them.

I’ve previously argued that unions in some companies are necessary to provide a counter-balance to unscrupulous employers, and I think Rosenthal ignores the strongest argument against right-to-work laws – i.e., they allow so-called free-riders, those who benefit from the union advocacy without paying for that advocacy.  Although the power of unions to severely damage a business needs to be minimized, I don’t think the law should employ a divide & conquer strategy against union representation.


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