Denver Post business writer Al Lewis made an interesting revelation yesterday (H/T Labor Pains blog):
What’s so great about being in the union?
Half of Colorado’s United Food and Commercial Workers would stop paying union dues if they could, according to the group’s local president.
In a May 1 letter to members, Ernest Duran warns that the right-to-work initiative headed for Colorado’s November ballot would decimate his ranks of dues-paying members.
“If this amendment passes, we will enter all future negotiations divided,” Duran wrote. “In my opinion, we will enter with less than 50 percent of the workers as union members.”
Do you wonder now why union leaders are so frightened of Amendment 47, the statewide ballot initiative that would empower individual workers to decide whether they wish to pay union dues or fees?
Amendment 47 “basically creates a freeloader system,” [UFCW spokesman Manny] Gonzales said, “so that people can opt out of union membership, but they still can benefit from the same union services that members can.”
Clearly this is not fair, but no matter how the labor laws are written, somebody gets shafted.
Under Colorado’s long-standing Labor Peace Act, it’s those workers who loathe unions but have to pay for them anyway because they work in union shops.
If right to work passes, it will be unions that are forced to negotiate on behalf of people who refuse to pay their dues. To Duran’s point, that’s unfair too.
In the interest of fairness, it seems a compromise is in order. To be fair to the workers who don’t want to pay, let’s give them right-to-work. To be fair to the leaders of UFCW and other labor unions, who don’t want to negotiate for workers who refuse to pay, let’s take away the burden of monopoly bargaining.
Under such a system, union leaders would only have to bargain for those workers who wanted their representation. Other workers could negotiate for themselves or choose to contract with someone else to represent them on an individual or collective basis. This competition for services would be in the best interest of individual workers, who would be able to select the deal that suited them best. No one would be coerced into paying fees they didn’t want to pay. No one would have to represent ungrateful freeloaders.
Freedom. Competition. Choice. Good for business, and good for workers. But union leaders would never go for it. I wonder why?
Ironically, what it comes down to is the union leaders’ elitist attitude: We know what’s best for you, even if you don’t.
Alan Davis says
Labor is such a huge issue this year in Colorado. Every candidate needs to be held accountable on their stance here. Look at Boulder Liberal Mark Udall for example. Not only is he against right-to-work in general, but he favors the Employee Free Choice Act as well. This federal gem has Big Labor frothing at the mouth to get more big-money union supporters like Udall into the national ranks by taking away the freedom of secret elections from non-unionized workers. Not to mention the 8 other pro-union initiatives on the ballot…