Responding to Right-to-Work Video Critique

I am responding to a Facebook critique of my video on Libertarians and Right-to-Work laws.

Steve Bachovin Assumptions and opinions don’t always hold up in the real world my friend. Most of the arguments against right-to-work have little basis in fact.
Myth: Right-to-work laws prohibit unions.
Fact: Right-to-work laws make union dues voluntary. Without
right-to-work laws, unions negotiate contracts that force workers to pay dues or get fired. Right-to-work laws protect workers’ freedom. The National Labor Relations Act also protects the right of workers in right-to-work states to unionize. Unions currently represent 4.4 million workers in 24 right-to-work states, including highly unionized Nevada, Iowa and Michigan.
Myth: Right-to-work laws undermine unions.
Fact: Right-to-work laws make unions work to earn workers’ support. In the long run, this can strengthen union locals. Without right-to-work laws, unions can take their members’ dues for granted and provide lower quality representation.
Myth: Right-to-work laws allow nonunion members to “free ride” on the benefits of union representation without paying its cost.
Fact: Unions voluntarily represent non-members. The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that the National Labor Relations Act allows unions to negotiate contracts covering only dues-paying members. As Justice Brennan wrote in Retail Clerks v. Dry Lion Goods (1962), “Members only’ contracts have long been recognized.” Unions represent non-members only when they act as “exclusive bargaining representatives,” which requires non-members to accept the union’s representation.
In that case, the law requires unions to represent non-members
fairly. They cannot negotiate high wages for their supporters and the
minimum wage for non-members. Unions can avoid representing non-members by disclaiming exclusive representative status.
Myth: Representing non-members costs exclusive representative unions a lot of money. Fact: Unions often spend little on representational activities. When unions choose to act as exclusive bargaining representatives, they often spend relatively little on processing grievances and negotiating contracts. Often union contracts have employers cover these costs by allowing union stewards to do union business while on company time. As a
result, many union locals spend very little representing workers –
either members or non-members. Federal filings reveal that in 2013 United Auto Workers Local 2164 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, spent just 2 percent of its $560,000 budget on representational activities. Boilermakers Local 107 in Brookfield, Wisconsin, spent 5 percent of its $2.0 million budget on representational activities. Almost all of which constituted payments to its officers.
Myth: Right-to-work laws provide no economic benefits.
Fact: Companies consider right-to-work laws a major factor when
deciding where to locate. Organizing victories bring in a lot more money for a union in jurisdictions with compulsory dues. Consequently, unions organize more aggressively in places without right-to-work laws. Companies in turn want to know they can avoid being targeted by union organizers if they treat their workers well. Right-to-work laws make that more likely.
Economic development consultants report that roughly half of all
major businesses refuse to consider locating in jurisdictions with
compulsory dues. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that between 1990 and 2014 total employment grew more than twice as fast in right-to-work states as in states with compulsory dues.
Myth: Right-to-work laws lower wages.
Fact: Workers have the same or higher buying power in right-to-work
states. Opponents often deride voluntary dues as “right-to-work for
less.” Average wages in right-to-work states are indeed slightly lower than in non-right-to-work states. This occurs because almost every Southern state has a right-to-work law, and the South has a lower cost of living. Studies that control for differences in costs of living find workers in states with voluntary dues have no lower – and possibly slightly higher – real wages than workers in states with compulsory dues.

L Larry Liu “Right-to-work laws protect workers’ freedom.”

I have previously argued that the freedom you are referring to are hollow due to weakened labor power and increased capitalist power.

“Unions currently represent 4.4 million workers in 24 right-to-work states, including highly unionized Nevada, Iowa and Michigan.”

I don’t know about the other states, but in Michigan they rammed through right-to-work last year or so. And they were a high-union state because of the automobile industry, and to some extent still are. So let history make its verdict on the ever-declining union sector which is exacerbated by right-to-work

“Right-to-work laws make unions work to earn workers’ support. In the long run, this can strengthen union locals. Without right-to-work laws, unions can take their members’ dues for granted and provide lower quality representation. “

Okay, I don’t know what to do with this argument, except to remark that it CAN strengthen union locals, but they have not, because of what you wrote below, “Organizing victories bring in a lot more money for a union in jurisdictions with compulsory dues. Consequently, unions organize more aggressively in places without right-to-work laws.” This is not a very promising story for unions with right-to-work laws.

“Unions voluntarily represent non-members.”

On this issue, it does not matter how you twist it, but workers are screwed. (1) If unions are required to represent non-members then you have the aforementioned free-riding effect, which weakens the treasury of the union, though with the statistics that you cited it might not be very much. But think over the long-run where unions are currently headed, which is down and not up. (2) If unions are NOT required to represent non-members, then you create a two-tiered system, where a few “monopoly” union workers make a lot of money and a lot of non-union workers get paid almost nothing for the same work. That is going to create significant social tensions among the workforce, as we already see. I, therefore, prefer outcome (1) and then lobby to repeal right-to-work to make it easier to expand unions and convert the non-members to members.

” Companies in turn want to know they can avoid being targeted by union organizers if they treat their workers well. Right-to-work laws make that more likely.”

I don’t get that part. If you have right-to-work laws companies are more likely to treat their workers well? If that is what the statement says then this is of course bullshit. By imposing right-to-work employers can treat their workers with much more impunity, because they successfully imposed a divide-and-conquer strategy. The workers are many, the employers are few. In a democracy the majority rules, but in a naked-power regime such as ours the clever minority will always outmaneuver the divided majority.

“Economic development consultants report that roughly half of all
major businesses refuse to consider locating in jurisdictions with
compulsory dues. Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that between 1990 and 2014 total employment grew more than twice as fast in right-to-work states as in states with compulsory dues.”

I am not going to dispute the data you cited here, except to say that, of course, employers will try everything they can to ensure lower labor costs. And they will go to where labor unions are weakly organized which are right-to-work states. There are many institutional factors that account for weak unions, but right-to-work is an important factor. It is the courts, the judges, the governors, the politicians siding with the employers and not with the workers. Though I agree with the premise of the problem (“pro-union states have lower job creation”), the solution has to come from outside, usually government policies to expand job creation and help the cause of unions and reduce the rents of the employers. They can’t come from a self-defeating race to the bottom.

“Workers have the same or higher buying power in right-to-work
states. “
Okay, here I want to see the actual study. The South is certainly attracting manufacturing jobs but that is more like a zero-sum activity, where profits for the northern headquartered companies are just soaring, while wages are low and unions are weak.

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