Will Indiana choose right-to-work?

Indiana Republicans want to make the state a right-to-work state. Instead of being required to pay dues to the unions there, employees would instead have the right to refuse union membership and keep their money.

Bills filed in the Indiana House that would ban workers from being required to pay union dues could spark a debate so divisive that Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels wants to avoid the issue.

The so-called right-to-work legislation has been filed by Republicans who gained a House majority in the November election. Labor Committee Chairman Doug Gutwein of Francesville says he supports such a law, but doesn’t know yet whether the committee will consider it.

Predictably, Democrats oppose the measure. Their links to Big Labor have been well documented. Right-to-work states limit the ability of Big Labor to organize and forcibly collect dues from employees. Since Big Labor supports the Democrats, Democrats oppose right-to-work laws.

Right-to-work laws essentially allow individuals who don’t want to be forced to hand over part of their paycheck to union bosses to keep their full paycheck. Laws vary by state, but these employees are generally paid the same as unionized employees, and are supposed to receive the same protections the union offers its members.

The alternative is the union-shop state, where every employee is required to pay dues to the union, if one exists, even if they chose not to join. Indiana currently falls into this category.

During college, I lived in a union-shop state and worked for two different employers, one unionized, one not. Both were major retailers and I held the same job in both companies. Both were “premium service” stores with many value-added services. While covering different markets and being different in overall size, they were both large companies and in many ways very similar. My experiences, however, were very different.

While working for the unionized company, I had $12.50 per week removed from my paycheck and handed over to a subsidiary of the AFL-CIO, no matter how many hours I worked. If I didn’t work in a particular week, an additional $12.50 was removed from the following paycheck. In exchange for this I had no health insurance, no work stability, hostile middle managers, limited strike benefits (I was part-time) and the one “benefit” that I did see was discounted admission to Six Flags.

After seven months with the unionized company, I moved. Thankfully, the nearest store was too far away to be practical and no positions were open at the time. So I took a couple of months off and depleted my savings before taking on a new job with the non-union store.

For the same job function, I recieved better pay ($1.75 more per hour!), health insurance, a stable work schedule and friendly managers at all levels. I never had to worry about a strike. There were monthly company barbecues where individual and team awards (with real rewards) were handed out. The opportunity to advance or change positions felt real, and I saw multiple people earn promotions or department transfers within a few months.

Had the state been a right-to-work state, I could have worked at the first company and chosen not to pay dues to the union. I’d have kept my $12.50 for myself (what a horrific thing to do!). My money would have been used to pay my bills and build my savings instead of supporting an organization with a leftist ideology that acts to support politicians that directly oppose my personal views.

The fact is, Big Labor is not a friend to conservatives. Unions support liberals and socialists who harm employers in favor of the short-term interests of the union leadership. According to the Washington Times blurb, Governor Daniels appears hesitant to spend political capital on facing-down Big Labor. If that’s the case, it’s a long-term losing strategy for Republicans, who will face better-organized, better-funded campaigns with strong union backing.

If employees want to join together in a union, they have that right. Forcing individuals to pay an organization with whom they may have ideological or other disagreements, or from whom they see no benefits isn’t a protection, it’s a violation of an individual’s right of free association. If a union is really beneficial, then the employees will join and pay dues voluntarily; if it is not, employees should have every right to opt-out.