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A union member's response: Your vote is your voice in your union: Use it

Larry Wright / Cagle Cartoons

In his July 2 op-ed in the News Tribune, "Workplace freedom missing on the Fourth of July," Luka Ladan of the Center for Union Facts listed a litany of what I felt were half-truths, untruths, and alternate truths.

He equated the signing of the Declaration of Independence from a foreign tyrant to union workers "without a voice and ruled by the same union leaders for decades with little opportunity to remove it or replace it." That isn't accurate. If Lukan knows anything about labor law, he knows local union elections of officers are required by federal law at least every three years. Similarly, national and international unions must hold conventions at least every five years with officers elected by representatives of local unions elected by their members. And, in some cases, these elections are monitored by the Labor Department.

Lukan equated your "grandfather (voting) for a member of Congress 20 years ago and you were required to be represented by that elected official today" to a union official deducting dues from a worker's paycheck and forcing that worker "to abide by rules that did not apply to other people." This analogy was so ridiculous it shouldn't need rebuttal. Left unchallenged, though, some may believe it. First, if your grandfather voted for a congressman 20 years ago, that congressman would have had to have been re-elected nine times. There are union officers who have held union positions also for 20 or more years; but, like congressmen, they had to be re-elected. No union position is a monarchy.

Lukan referenced "Rasmussen polling" that claimed that only 25 percent of union members approve of their leadership and that 57 percent "indicated" those leaders were "out of touch" with their members. First, I have to ask who paid for the poll. Second, how were the questions framed? And third, did the poll ask if that member voted in the last union election? I realize there are some who grouse about their union reps and their congressmen or congresswomen who don't bother to vote. I have no sympathy for them.

I'll give credit to Ladan for bringing to my attention the so-called Employee Rights Act, or ERA, a misnomer second only to right-to-work legislation and quite possibly an attempt to confuse people more familiar with the Equal Rights Amendment.

Right-to-work guarantees no one a right to a job, but it does guarantee that non-dues-paying freeloaders in unionized workplaces receive union benefits. It also guarantees the union must represent these leeches in suspensions and terminations, even though they pay no dues to support the union while drawing union-negotiated wages and benefits.

The Employee Rights Act would schedule recertification votes and recognize non-votes as yes votes for decertification. Ladan said the bill would reinforce an employee's right to leave a union without intimidation. Members have a right to leave a union now, but if I called a member who dropped his membership in my workplace a leech or a scumbag freeloader, would I be in violation of the Employee Rights Act?

Ladan stated that "national and regional polls show that the overwhelming majority of union household voters support the ERA's key provisions." No way! I try to keep an eye on labor issues even as a retired union member. Until I read Ladan's column, I had never even heard of the Employee Rights Act, much less its provisions. So a claim that an "overwhelming majority of union households support the ERA" seems simply unbelievable.

Organized labor has had to fight to get the benefits it has won. It continues to have to fight to keep those benefits. The enemies of working men and women — like the Center for Union Facts (alternative facts, in my view), the National Right to Work (for less and leech) Committee, and the Heritage Foundation — are well-funded and have many politicians (mostly in the Republican Party) bought and paid for.

Your vote is your voice — in your union and in your country. Use it.

George A. Sundstrom of French River is a retired union sheet metal worker.