The Associated Press is reporting this morning that Indiana Unions are making a desperate bid in shops and labor halls across the state to keep their members from bolting. I say, good, and I wish them luck.
This stems from the passage of “right to work” which now makes it illegal for an employer to mandate an employee pay union fees as a condition of their employment. Unions argued that this was an attempt to drive down wages while supporters said it was about job creation and economic freedom.
I have maintained that any union that is doing its job and providing good service, should not fear right to work. Instead, use RTW as an opportunity to sell the services the union provides.
In the AP article, local labor leader Brent Voorhies says he’s going around to different labor halls reminding workers of the services they provide, including grievance procedures, training, and negotiating wages and benefits. Makes perfect sense to me, most rational people don’t mind paying for a service if they think the service is valuable.
Now this is the point where the “free loader” arguments come in and RTW opponents say that by law they are forced to represent everyone in the workplace, regardless of whether they pay dues. That is true, but not the entire story. As I have stated before that when the union is certified it can decide whether it wants to be the exclusive collective bargaining unit in the workplace or represent members only. However, it’s much easier for an organization to make a few bucks when everyone is forced to join. It is a much harder sell when membership is voluntary. And please note, there is nothing to stop the unions from going to Washington to lobby the federal government to change the law so they do not have to represent people who don’t pay for the service.
So as I read about unions lamenting about a loss of membership, I have a hard time finding sympathy. People will likely stay if you make the case. Will there be some people who take advantage of the system, of course. However, most people are willing to pay for something if they think it is worth the value. So in the brave new “right to work” world we live in, unions can survive, they will just have to actually have to work smarter to do it. The key words in that sentence are “work smarter.”