"Right to Work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states . which prohibit . making membership or payment of union dues or fees a condition of employment." Wikipedia
House Bill 474, the Right to Work bill, has been in the headlines over the last week. Lets take a look at what it is. I will look at it through the prism of having been the National Secretary-Treasurer of the Allied Pilots Association (APA), the independent pilot union of the American Airlines pilots.
First, there are three types of unions (1) a "closed shop" requires membership in the union in order to be employed. (2) An "agency shop" does not require membership but requires that non-members contribute to the union for the cost of negotiating the contract. This is what our public unions have been. The cost of the "agency fee" can be as much as 65-80% of the membership fee. (3) The third type is an "open shop" which does not require either membership or an agency fee.
HB 474 creates an "open shop" for public employees. Will the public employers need to negotiate with each non-unionized employee? No. The employer will state the terms of employment in the recruiting documents and the applicant can accept or reject that offer, just as in the private sector.
Being the independent types for which airline pilots are known, the Allied Pilots Association was an "open shop". It respected freedom of association and did not force membership or fees on anyone. Nobody needed to join if he or she did not want to.
How did that work out? Of the over 10,000 pilots at American Airlines, fewer than 100 are non-members of APA. That means more than 99% of the pilots are VOLUNTARY members of the union. That gave a power to the individual that is not available in other unions. If the members feel that they are not being properly represented or if union leadership becomes despotic or dictatorial, the individual members can withhold dues money and starve the union. That leads to complete honesty and responsiveness. If a union is honest, without union "bosses" or devious methods, and provides value for the money, the membership will respond positively to the leadership provided.
It also gives power to the union when negotiating. The Board of Directors is made up of the Chairman and Vice Chairman of each domicile base. The company knows that our membership is not being coerced on contractual issues but, as a totally voluntary group, is instead leading from the grass roots to show the officers where they want to go.
I am supportive of Right to Work because I have experienced what a completely open, honest, and responsive union can accomplish. If a union provides positive value and service to its members, there is no need to have a coerced membership. The workers will flock to a union like this and the entire voluntary association can be and will be a positive influence on the workforce for both the employer and the employee.
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Contact: ken.s+sunacom.com (replace "+" with "@")