Employee Freedom Does Not Enable “Free Riders,” Union Contracts DoMarch 22, 2012 at 5:35 am | Posted in Political | Leave a comment
Tags: Dave Thompson, Employee Freedom, free rider, gop, Labor, minnesota, Right-to-Work, Steve Drazkoswki, unions
I have a friend who I’ve known longer than I haven’t, an unapologetic conservative who happens to serve the City of Minneapolis as a firefighter. Last week, he told me he could no longer vote ‘yes’ for the proposed employee freedom constitutional amendment in good conscience. Why? Because his union had told him that the passage of employee freedom would enable employees to obtain all the benefits of union membership without paying dues. “That’s not what I thought it was,” he told me.
Although he wants the choice to be part of the union or not, he said he believes the freedom of association should work both ways. I agreed and suddenly found myself in the uncomfortable position of not having a good answer for a legitimate concern. Was it true that unions would still have to represent people who did not pay dues if employee freedom was ratified? If so, how does that jive with free market principles?
As it turns out, the answers to those questions are readily available. In a paper by John W. Cooper on the effects of right-to-work laws, the “free rider” concern is handily addressed. Here’s the bottom line:
Unions created their own dilemma by initiating force against competitors, which include other unions or individual workers wishing to contract with employers separate from a union. Federal law enables unions to establish contracts granting them exclusive representation, meaning they are the only entity which can negotiate on behalf of employees. It is these exclusive representation contracts, not employee freedom, which obligate unions to represent non-members and those not paying dues.
The solution is simple, unions can change their contracts to give up exclusive representation. Under employee freedom, the choice for the unions would come down to maintaining a contractual monopoly and enduring the resulting “free riders,” or giving up their monopoly and competing in a free market for labor. In either case, all parties concerned would retain their freedom of association. Whether with exclusive representation or without employee freedom, employees cannot choose whether or not to associate with a union.
The only remaining question is why the “free rider” argument continues to go unchallenged in the public discourse. If a conservative firefighter who believes wholeheartedly in the freedom of association can be talked off of his support of employee freedom by his union, then proponents of employee freedom have utterly failed to get in front of the talking points. Perhaps that messaging failure has contributed to weak leadership on the issue at the capitol.
The scuttlebutt is that employee freedom is stalled unless it can get a committee hearing in the senate this week. Since this week consists of the balance of today and Friday, the call to action is urgent. Please encourage senate committee chairs to give employee freedom a hearing, particularly if you live in their districts. Explain that the case for employee freedom is strong and the chief Big Labor talking point is entirely disingenuous. There is no guarantee that another chance to restore employee freedom will present itself. This caucus must lead on the issue. And they must do so today!