On Labor Day: Has labor lost its luster? Yes: Laws shouldn't force workers to pay dues to union bosses
As you watch your children board the school bus for the first day back to classes, consider this: That school bus driver likely is forced to pay fees to a union as a condition of driving that bus. Why? Because Minnesota is one of 22 forced-unionism states in America, states where a union official can legally have a worker fired for not paying union dues or fees.
You are not alone if you think this sounds absurd. According to a national Gallup poll, nearly 80 percent of Americans agree: No worker should be forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment.
Labor-union bosses in your state enjoy a special privilege that allows them to expand their ranks through compulsion. Union bosses can impose a monopoly bargaining contract, which virtually always includes a forced-dues clause that requires every employee (even the ones who did not vote for the union) to pay tribute to the union bosses, just for the privilege of having a job.
While forced unionism is just plain wrong, coercing workers into subsidizing union officials also holds back a state’s economy. There are now 28 “right-to-work” states in America, with Kentucky and Missouri joining the ranks earlier this year. These states have passed laws to strip away Big Labor’s power to force workers to pay them fees as a condition of employment.
The absence of forced unionism gives right-to-work states an economic leg-up. From 2005 to 2015, private-sector job growth was 15.4 percent in right-to-work states compared to 10.4 percent in forced-unionism states, according to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research.
Furthermore, the institute found that once you adjusted for cost of living, workers in right-to-work states had, on average, $2,500 more to spend in disposable personal income than their forced-unionism counterparts.
Of course, the better economic climate might explain why the National Institute for Labor Relations Research reports that from 2006 to 2016, right-to-work states saw population growth for people in their peak earning years (ages 35 to 54) by more than 3 percent while non-right-to-work states suffered a 6 percent population decline.
The facts speak for themselves.
So it is no surprise that a growing number of states are eager to cast off Big Labor’s chokehold, free their workforce, and realize the economic opportunity a right-to-work law would bring.
And that is why, in recent years, a half dozen states — including Michigan, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, each of them dominated for years by Big Labor — passed right-to-work laws, freeing their workers from Big Labor’s ironclad grip.
Right-to-work laws do not outlaw labor unions. They do not prevent any worker from joining a labor union. Right-to-work laws simply codify one, common-sense principle: Every worker should have the choice to join a labor union — but no worker should be forced to pay fees to a union as a condition of employment.
So as you wrap up celebrating this three-day weekend, consider the benefits of right-to-work. Consider your unemployed neighbor who might find a job. Consider the new manufacturing plant that might open its doors. Consider what you might do with an extra $2,500 of spending power in your pocket.
Will Minnesota be the next right-to-work state?
Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (nrtw.org), which is based in Springfield, Va.