Right-to-work policies allow workers at privately owned companies freedom to forgo paying union dues if they don’t agree with how their hard-earned money is being spent.
Giving Bluegrass State workers this leverage likely would result in more dues monies devoted to supporting local workers and less on extremist politicians a long way from Kentucky and programs that clash with the views and values of many Kentuckians—union and non-union alike.
According to federal Department of Labor filings, the UAW Local 2164 at the General Motors Corvette Plant in Bowling Green spent just 2 percent of its $560,000 budget on representation in 2013.
And they’re not alone in spending very little of their members’ dues monies on contract negotiations or handling grievances while forking over a lot of cash for big-government political and social causes.
Boilermakers Local 107 in Brookfield, Wisconsin, spent just 5 percent of its $2 million budget in 2013 on representational activities. Machinists Lodge 2515 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, disbursed 23 percent of its $645,000 budget on representational activities—nearly all of which constituted payments to its officers.
Where’s the money going?
According to Opensecrets.org, the AFL-CIO in 2014 contributed more than $8 million nationally to political candidates and spent $5 million championing particular causes like the controversial pro-abortion Planned Parenthood organization.
Such spending habits make sense considering AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka’s naked admission that he got into the labor movement because he “saw it as a vehicle to do massive social change.”
But what if some union members’ views and values are different from Trumka’s? Should they still be forced to fund those efforts?
Or what if they think dues monies should actually be used for representing workers rather than “social change?” Should they still be forced to pay dues?
Local 2164 president Eldon Renaud disingenuously berated Warren County Fiscal Court members who supported a local right-to-work ordinance passed in December, accusing them of not standing up for a local company even as his union spends only 2 percent of dues monies representing its workers while sending the rest to Washington and other far-away places to fund political candidates and causes many Kentuckians—including Renaud’s members—don’t support.
“If you can’t support the organization that’s supporting you, it’s gonna fall apart,” Renaud demagogued during Warren County’s right-to-work debate.
Not only has nothing fallen apart in any of the 25 states that have right-to-work policies—except, perhaps, some of the control previously held by labor-union bigshots—but many union leaders actually are more responsive to members because they now must work to retain their involvement and dues payments.
Perhaps that’s why union membership is growing, even in right-to-work states. Workers now feel they have a real say in how dues monies are spent, and in seeing their union representatives more than once every three years at contract-renegotiation time.
Another indication the sky’s not falling is the fact that, as reported by the Michigan-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy, there’s been a 66-percent drop in the number of Michiganders who are jobless since their state’s unemployment rate dropped from its whopping 14.9 percent in June 2009 to 5 percent this October.
Vincent Vernuccio, the Mackinac Center’s director of labor policy, points to Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers showing that not only did the state’s employment levels grow by 141,900 between March 2013 and December 2014, but average wages in the private sector rose by 3.2 percent.
“Michigan has seen the largest drop in unemployment in the nation—job growth is up, wages are up, property values are up and unemployment is down,” Vernuccio said. “It’s morning again in Michigan—and worker freedom played a big part of that.”
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at [email protected] Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.