Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Let's REALLY Look At "Right To Work!"

On the surface, I agree with Michigan's new 'right-to-work" law, which forbids members of unions from having to pay mandatory union dues.  Yes, I don't agree that workers should be made to pay mandatory union dues as condition of their membership, but I don't believe that legislative action should be used to mandate such.
As with anything new law, the motivation was partly political.  Yes, it makes sense--especially in the automobile capital of America--to have a policy meant to stem the building of new automobile plants in mostly Southern "right-to-work" states.  Such a law incentivizes building new plants in Michigan, a state hit particularly hard by the recent economic downturn. But the law also has the added effect of siphoning off potential money which unions use in support pro-union candidates for public office...who are typically not Republicans.  Additionally, a provision in the new law which prohibits it from being overturned by popular referendum--a legal option in Michigan for undoing unpopular or initiating desired laws--smacks of imperialism; a we know what's best for you! law.  Big surprise.
If this new law was really meant to be "pro-worker," as Republican Governor Rick Snyder asserts, then maybe he and the Republican-led Michigan legislature wouldn't mind considering eliminating the the "at-will employment" doctrine among state employers.  In short, the law operates on the following basis:

"any hiring is presumed to be "at will"; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals "for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all," and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work" (At-Will Employment).

At the risk of incurring some criticism and "fact-checking" by hair-splitting types, my own (admittedly anecdotal) experience with at-will employment is that it allow employers to terminate employee for any reason which isn't explicitly prohibited by established laws (federal and/or state).  However, this does not include having a thread out of place, or giving a an opinion.  In many states, the attempt to unionize can also be grounds for termination.  I have personally witnessed more than my fair share if individuals having their employment terminated for the most relatively benign of reasons...and the fact that many of the employers were quick to tout "we're an 'at-will employer'" as a justification for their decisions tells me all I need to know about the doctrine. 
If those against the enforcement of paying union dues were really out to protect the "right to work," then they would balance the scales of the asynchronistic power relationship between employers and employees in America by eliminating this antiquated, outdated, and inherently unfair practice by employers.



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