The Right To Work

The Right To Work

Certain members of the Legislature are considering the introduction of a” right to work” bill. This action is being considered as a result of a United States National Labor Relations Board ruling that workers in the Commonwealth have the right to organize a union for purposes of collectively bargaining with a business owner or management to achieve any number of benefits as a result of their labor. Unions have long played a major part in the American economy, sometimes good and sometimes bad.

They certainly have benefited the workers, at least for a time, while often being the antipathy of management. A right to work law would assure the Commonwealth’s labor force that they will not be obligated to join a labor union if they wish to continue working for a firm that has an employee union. This is the opposite of a “closed shop” which is a term applied to a situation were anyone working for a business that has been “unionized” must be a dues paying member of that union. In a closed shop if you don’t agree to join the union you don’t get the job. In this case it is the union that determines who works for a business and who does not. Management’s ability to make such selections is abrogated and they are often faced with a “take it or leave it” situation. Union members have been known to walk off the job when one of their members was dismissed for cause by management. The dues paid by union members are frequently used to build up a “strike fund”. When the union demands a wage increase or some other benefit, if not met, the members walk off the job and are sustained for a time from the money in the fund. The enmity with which management often views labor unions stems directly from union demands that increase the cost of doing business. This can take the form of demands for higher wages, profit sharing, jurisdictional differences, increased medical contributions from business, guaranteed vacations and sick leave to mention only a few of the more common demands. The cost of which, if met, will eventually be passed on to the consumer in the form of higher prices.

A few examples will illustrate the point. There have been instances where two different unions on a job site, a carpenter’s union and a union of masons, would protect the jurisdiction of each. The carpenters would erected the wooden frame for a foundation footer, and the masons would pour the concrete. Once hardened, the masons would refuse to remove the wooden frame because it was within the jurisdiction of the carpenter’s union. In still another case, a municipality purchased a number of benches for its parks.

The benches arrived painted green. The painter’s union insisted that they be painted over even though they were brand new. I’m from West Virginia, a state which was heavily unionized, I say “was” – because most of the union jobs have been lost. In an attempt to force management to pay higher wages the union would call upon its members to strike (walk off the job and close the mine down). We had coal miners with a sixth grade education that were paid more that teachers with masters degrees. They eventually forced management to automate the mines with machines and the miners lost their jobs. Twenty five years ago most of the garment factories in the United Sates were located in the northeast in states that did not have right to work laws. The factories became unionized many as “closed shops”. The factories moved to the southern states which had enacted right to work laws. Today the United States is one of several of the world’s leading manufacturing nations that is in the process of rapidly de-industrializing.

A plethora of onerous regulations and the demands of organized labor are largely responsible for American industry relocating abroad and taking their jobs with them. Right to work laws give the employee the option of deciding whether or not to join a union. One way or the other he or she has the right to work.