The term ‘Right To Work’ is a misleading phrase used by opponents of unions and collective bargaining, to eliminate the leverage unions have to negotiate fair wages & working conditions. The choice of words is meant to convey something that it is not. Federal law prohibits anyone from being required to belong to a union to hold any job. However, federal law also requires all workers, union or not, to receive the same wages, benefits and protections negotiated and provided by that union.
Therefore, it has been customary to permit unions to collect ‘Fair Share’ payments from non-union workers. Fair share requires non-union members pay the equivalence of union dues to the union. The rationale for this is the union incurs significant costs negotiating the benefits received by all members, union or not. Federal law also mandates the union legally represent non-union members for any work-related disputes. This may require the union to incur expensive legal bills defending non-union members.
Some union and non-union members object to their dues or fair share being spent for political activities that they oppose. However, everyone has the right to direct any of their dues that would otherwise be spent for ‘political activities’ to be allocated toward a non-religious charity of their choice. In other words, no one is required to spend any of their money supporting political causes that he or she personally opposes.
If Fair Share were eliminated in Illinois, some of our people will quit so they can save money on dues. When enough members drop, the bargaining unit loses leverage to negotiate better wages and conditions for all workers. Our pay and benefits in District 201 are comparatively good because our union has nearly always had 100 percent membership. Make no mistake! If Fair Share is eliminated, and just a portion of our people quit the union, you can expect a diminution of our pay and benefits relative to inflation.
Currently, 25 states have ‘Right To Work’ laws, and teachers’ unions in Illinois are under assault from two directions. Governor Rauner refuses to even discuss the Illinois budget until Democrats agree to sacrifice public unions. The current Supreme Court vacancy and Senate gridlock has the possibility of affecting the outcome of this case.
In light of the recent election, this topic will most likely come back to the Supreme Court. That is why we need to be vigilant about protecting ourselves. That is the function of our union. The next U.S. President and Congress have significant power to affect your paycheck.
Proud alumnus, union member, and educator in District #201 since 2006.
Dr. Hentze is the author of High Finance with Hentze, a monthly blog that provides news about District 201's current financial state.