Fox Business host Lou Dobbs falsely claimed that right-to-work laws eliminate forced union membership. In fact, federal law already prohibits unions from requiring membership, and right-to-work laws actually allow workers to receive union benefits without having to pay fees.
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Michigan Becomes Right-To-Work State
AP: Michigan Governor Signs Right-To-Work Bills Into Law. On December 12, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law a pair of right-to-work bills, which "ban requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services," the Associated Press reported. [Associated Press, 12/11/12]
Fox's Dobbs: "What This Law Changes Is Forced Union Membership"
Fox Business' Dobbs: "What This Law Changes Is Forced Union Membership. I Repeat: Forced Union Membership." Discussing Michigan's new law on the December 11 edition of his Fox Business program, host Lou Dobbs mislead viewers about the effect of right-to-work laws. He claimed that "Michigan workers still tonight have the right to form and join a union. They still have the right to bargain collectively. And what this law changes is forced union membership. I repeat, forced union membership." [Fox Business, Lou Dobbs Tonight, 12/11/12]
Forced Union Membership Is Already Illegal Under Federal Law
Maine Center For Economic Policy: "Under Federal Labor Law, Workers Cannot Be Legally Required To Join A Union." The Maine Center for Economic Policy laid out how forced union membership is illegal in a February 2011 op-ed: "A right-to-work law is not needed to protect nonunion workers. Several federal laws already protect the rights of nonunion employees in unionized workplaces, such as the NLRB vs. General Motors Supreme Court decision in 1963, and the Communication Workers vs. Beck decision of 1988. Under federal labor law, workers cannot be legally required to join a union as part of a collective bargaining contract." [Maine Center For Economic Policy, 2/19/11]
National Right To Work: "No Employee In The United States Can Legally Be Required" To Be A Full Union Member. Even National Right To Work, an organization that promotes right-to-work laws, acknowledges that forced union membership is already illegal. Informing workers of their rights concerning unions, Right To Work makes clear that "[n]o employee in the United States can legally be required to be a full-dues-paying, formal union member. But in many states, an employee can be forced to pay certain union dues or be fired from his or her job." [National Right To Work, accessed 12/11/12]
Instead, Right-To-Work Laws Allow Workers To Benefit From Union Contracts Without Paying A Fee
NLRB: Workers That Don't Want Full Union Membership "Pay Only That Share Of Dues Used Directly For Representation" Of Union Contract They Work Under. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) explains that workers do not have to be full union members, but instead must only pay for the union representation they receive by working at a union shop, regardless of their membership status. The NLRB says that "employees who object to full union membership may continue as 'core' members and pay only that share of dues used directly for representation, such as collective bargaining and contract administration. Known as objectors, they are no longer full members but are still protected by the union contract." NLRB also notes that right-to-work states allow non-union members to pay nothing, "even though all workers are protected by the collective bargaining agreement negotiated by the union." [National Labor Relations Board, accessed 12/11/12]
CEPR: Right-To-Work Allows Workers "To Benefit From Union Representation Without Having To Pay For Union Representation." In a February 28, 2011, post on the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), economist Dean Baker detailed how right-to-work laws "prohibit contracts that require that all the workers who benefit from union representation to pay for union representation." And because unions must legally represent every worker in a bargaining unit, "[t]his means not only that non-members get the same wages and benefits that the union negotiates with the employer, but the union is also obligated to represent any non-member individually if that worker gets in a dispute with the employer over an issue covered in the contract." Baker explained:
For example, if a non-union member is threatened with a discipline action or firing, the union must defend this worker's rights just the same as if they were in the union.
Right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to pay for this union representation. What right-to-work laws actually guarantee is the ability for a worker to benefit from union representation without having to pay for union representation. [CEPR, 2/28/11]
Center For American Progress: "Right-To-Work" Laws "Allow Some Workers To Receive A Free Ride." A Center for American Progress report titled "Right-to-Work 101" explained that "right-to-work" laws simply "allow some workers to receive a free ride" by receiving benefits from a union contract without having to pay for it:
In states where the law exists, "right-to-work" makes it illegal for workers and employers to negotiate a contract requiring everyone who benefits from a union contract to pay their fair share of the costs of administering it. Right-to-work has nothing to do with people being forced to be union members.
Federal law already guarantees that no one can be forced to be a member of a union, or to pay any amount of dues or fees to a political or social cause they don't support. What right-to-work laws do is allow some workers to receive a free ride, getting the advantages of a union contract -- such as higher wages and benefits and protection against arbitrary discipline -- without paying any fee associated with negotiating on these matters.
That's because the union must represent all workers with the same due diligence regardless of whether they join the union or pay it dues or other fees and a union contract must cover all workers, again regardless of their membership in or financial support for the union. In states without right-to-work laws, workers covered by a union contract can refuse union membership and pay a fee covering only the costs of workplace bargaining rather than the full cost of dues. [Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2/2/12]
For more on how unions cannot force non-members to pay fees that ultimately go to political activity, click here.