Commentary

Right to Work Right for Mainers

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Did you know that workers in Maine who want nothing to do with a union have the right to refrain from paying for union boss politics and member-only activities?

Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work

Mark Mix, President of National Right to Work

You see, the U.S. Supreme Court has long held that nonmember workers have the constitutional right to cut off the use of their hard-earned money for union boss politics and other activities. However, this protection still does not go far enough: Thousands of Maine’s workers face a stark choice to either pay fees to an unwanted union or be fired.

Because Maine does not have Right to Work protections, workers can be compelled to pay union dues or fees or be fired. You see, union officials have the government-granted power to force workers to accept union bargaining over their wages and working conditions, including nonmembers.

This violation of workers’ fundamental right of free association will likely remain firmly ensconced in federal labor law – which is supposedly intended to protect the rights of individual workers – for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately for Mainers, legislators are awakening to the benefits of passing a state Right to Work law making union dues payments strictly voluntary.

And for good reason.

States with Right to Work laws have weathered the economic downturn better than their forced-unionism counterparts. For example, Right to Work states enjoyed higher rates of economic growth over the past decade, while non-Right to Work states are losing job-providing businesses and hard-working citizens to their Right to Work counterparts.

Meanwhile, based on figures provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, workers in Right to Work states enjoy higher wages, more disposable income, and higher standards of living (when adjusted for cost of living) compared to their colleagues in forced unionism states.

And while Right to Work may have numerous (and these days, much needed) economic benefits to both workers and job providers, Right to Work’s main benefit is that it protects workers’ freedom of association.

No person should be forced to financially support a private organization they do not support. However, union bosses enjoy special government-granted privileges to force thousands of Maine’s workers just that. Imagine the outrage if everyone was forced to fund a political party, church, or a civic organization.

Right to Work also makes it less difficult for workers to hold union officials accountable: Union officials in Right to Work states are more accountable to their members because they have to be. Voluntary unionism ensures that if a worker does not see the benefit of belonging to a union, they can simply cut off their financial support, forcing union officials to take into account the workers’ best interests if they hope to continue to collect their dues.

Public-opinion polls consistently show that three out of four Americans, and even 80 percent of union members, oppose forced unionism.

As National Employee Freedom Week draws to a close, Maine’s citizens should help their state legislators make the right decision and pass a Right to Work law freeing workers from the shackles of compulsory unionism. Until then, thousands of Maine’s workers will be forced to continue to make the dreadful choice: Pay up or be fired.

About Mark Mix

Mark Mix is the President of National Right to Work.

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