For decades, the liberty of Maine’s workers has been continually limited by onerous restrictions that deprive workers of their constitutionally protected freedom of association. While Maine’s workers have suffered, state governments in the past decade across the United States, such as Michigan and Indiana, have passed Right-to-Work legislation to protect the important freedoms of their workers.
Right-to-Work legislation prohibits workplace restrictions that require workers to financially support or join a union as a condition of employment. These laws allow workers to opt out of union dues in unionized workplaces, without fear of losing their jobs. Twenty eight states have taken the important step to pass Right-to-Work bills and the Maine Legislature must do the same to protect the individual freedoms of Maine workers.
While millions of workers across the country have the choice whether to join a union, private-sector workers have been coerced into supporting unions through mandatory union dues and fees. In many private-sector workplaces, significant amounts are taken from workers’ paychecks and given directly to unions. This government protected compulsion directly violates the freedom of association of Maine’s workers and perpetuates restrictions on economic liberty in the state of Maine.
Repeated attempts to pass Right-to-Work legislation have been defeated in Augusta by lawmakers who care little about protecting the individual liberty of Maine’s workers and instead secure the financial prerogatives of powerful union bosses. Mainers deserve another opportunity to thoroughly debate and ultimately pass this important policy through the state legislature.
Many workers have deeply held concerns with union leadership who can hold political or workplace agendas that deviate from the positions of individual workers. Forced to pay union dues, Maine workers are inherently forced to sign on to and support the policies of unions, despite the objections of individual workers. If workers have significant disagreements with union positions, they should be free to decide whether to be part of the organization.
In 2018, the Supreme Court in the case Janus v. AFSCME held that the government cannot force public sector employees to pay dues or fees to unions in the public sector. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito notes how closed-shop agreements restrict “the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
The Maine Legislature must apply this same logic to private sector agency-shop agreements. When workers are required to sanction union policies with monetary support, they are deprived of their fundamental freedoms of speech and association. Right-to-Work legislation helps ensure that these important freedoms are protected and that workers who may be in the minority cannot be fired due to their disagreements with union policies.
Rather than compelling workers to become unionized, Right-to-Work legislation offers workers a choice about joining a union. Right-to-Work policies do not prohibit union membership, but instead defend workers from forced unionization and their freedom of association protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Right-to-Work forces unions to become accountable to their workers. Instead of relying on captive membership, unions must offer tangible benfits to workers that incentivize membership. Union leadership must be more responsive to individual workers and their opinions on the union’s direction in order to maintain these workers as members.
Right-to-Work legislation is a question of economic freedom, and liberty-loving Mainers must rally to protect workers from egregious encroachments on constitutionally protected liberties.