Right-to-work supporters claim that it would bring workers increased “freedom” and “choice” in belonging to a union.
It’s actually an attack on working people and our freedom to join together in strong unions.
What is right-to-work?
Under Right-to-Work laws, it is illegal for unions to collect fair share fees or agency fees. Employees in unionized workplaces are not required to join a union, nor are they required to pay for union representation. While the corporate interests who support right-to-work claim that they are working to protect your personal rights, make no mistake about their true intention: they want to destroy unions — and your rights.
What they really think
While right-to-work supporters claim they are standing up for your personal freedom, a recent fundraising letter from the corporate-backed, Washington state-based think tank Freedom Foundation makes it clear that they don’t support you.
In the letter, they asserted that by bankrupting public sector unions, their corporate backers would be able to kill public sector jobs and roll back pay and benefits.
The Freedom Foundation frequently states that its goal is merely to provide employees a “choice” about whether to pay for the benefits secured by a union, but this letter shows its true evil intentions.
One excerpt from that letter reads, “They [unions]won’t go away until we drive the proverbial stake through their hearts and finish them off for good.”
The Freedom Foundation is only one of many corporate-backed groups that want to undermine working people. An April 2016 letter from the State Policy Network, a coalition of corporate-backed think tank organizations (including the Freedom Foundation), notes that its primary goal is to “defund and defang government unions.” Additionally, the State Policy Network sought to raise money to further fund its “state-by-state plan to liberate Americans from coercive government unions.”
Why are they coming after us?
Corporate interests are threatened by unions because we hold the key to the middle class; we have good pay, benefits, pensions and working conditions that allow us true freedom. Corporate interests want to profit even more than they are now. They don’t care about our personal liberties or our “freedom.” They care about making more money — at our expense.
So, what is the Truth?
Union members enjoy a 600 percent return on investment for each dollar paid in union dues, most notably contracts that are a fair return on our work, including our pay, benefits, pensions and working conditions. Unions are the single biggest factor that has risen working people out of poverty.
Right-to-work states have much lower rates of union membership than states with stronger union density such as New York. The numbers tell the whole story:
Workers in right-to-work states make $6,109 less annually than workers in states without this law. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
In right to work states, 13 percent of people under age 65 have no health insurance, as compared with 9.4 percent of people in other states (Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation). The foundation also reports that 47 percent of employers in right to work states offer insurance to employees, compared with 52.2 percent in other states.
States with right-to-work laws spend 32.5 percent less per pupil on elementary and secondary education than other states (National Education Association).
The rate of workplace deaths is 49 percent higher in states with right to work laws (Bureau of Labor Statistics).
In right-to-work states, poverty rates stand at 15.3 percent overall (and 21.4 percent for children). In other states, poverty rates total 12.8 percent overall (and 18 percent for children). (U.S. Census Bureau)
Don’t be fooled: they are coming for you
You have just arrived home from work when you receive a knock on the door.
On your doorstep is a person who tells you that you have the right to not pay your union dues; that they can help you “achieve freedom from forced unionism.” All you would have to do to “regain your freedom” is to agree to opt out of your union.
In another scenario, you are entering or leaving the government building in which you work when people approach you to urge you to “save money” by quitting your union.
The workplace scenario actually happened in late 2015 in Washington and Oregon, when the corporate-backed Freedom Foundation sent representatives in Santa Claus costumes to stand outside state office buildings and urge unionized workers to “give themselves a raise” by opting out of union membership.
Because of the impending Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case and ongoing challenges, right-to-work advocates are slated to be at our doors in 2018.
Whether you get a door visit or workplace visit, your visitor may refer to your union membership in terms such as “trapped” and “forced,” and urge you to quit by telling you that you should be “informed about your rights.”
Despite their message of populism, right-to-work advocates don’t support you. In fact, they want to take away what you have.
Now is the time to think about what would you say if they ask you to quit your union today.
Don’t be fooled; tell your right-to-work visitors that you already have the freedom you want because of your union — and you plan to Never Quit.