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Over 2,000 Posts (2,334)
Dyer, IN
54, joined Oct. 2009


WHAT IS RIGHT TO WORK?
By Todd Johnson,
Sprinkler Fitters LU 669
St. Stephen Cathedral, Owensboro, KY
As both a Catholic and union organizer, I am asked
frequently to explain what Right to Work is. Its name
certainly sounds positive. As Americans, most of us
feel our right to work is somehow intertwined into our
inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness. But, don’t let the name deceive you! I feel
reasonably sure that a smooth talking politician trying
to sneak this policy under the radar of his or her
constituents came up with the name for this piece of
legislation.
People often rely on misconceptions and
misunderstandings to form an opinion on organized
union labor. In reality, unions are just like any
business or organization. To accomplish their goals,
unions require loyalty and agreement between
members to work for a common goal, and they also
require money. Unions are organizations that collect
dues from members (workers) so that they are able to
pay representatives who, in turn, work to protect the
interest of the members, the workers. In a Right to
Work state though, unions are required to represent
all workers, regardless of whether that worker paid
membership dues or not! That is like a business
owner asking the Chamber of Commerce to be a
member of their organization, but they really don’t
want to pay dues! I feel sure their membership would
be denied. That is the complete story of Right to
Work!
This legislation was created with the singular intent to
financially cripple labor unions and ultimately
eliminate them. Labor unions have been instrumental
in forming the entire structure and acceptance of
workers’ rights. All workers, even those who do/did
not belong to a union, have enjoyed the benefits such
as: 40 hour work weeks, safe work environments,
health insurance, etc. Right to Work is an attempt by
corporate America to lower the wages of the typical
worker to increase their profits. This is not just a
union issue, it affects all workers’ wages and fringe
benefits, whether represented by a union or not.
Efforts to persuade Kentuckians to elect state
representatives who would consider passing a socalled
Right to Work law has failed in the recent
elections. With failure to enact the law at the state
level, a new scheme has been implemented to lobby
county government officials to enact these anti-union
laws. This scheme should be rejected for multiple
reasons:
It is directly contrary to the federal law that
allows so-called Right to Work laws to be
passed only by states.
If successful, it would create a confusing
patchwork of 120 regulations with conflicting
rules within the Commonwealth, which will
send potential new Kentucky businesses
scurrying to other states.
The idea is morally bankrupt and contrary to
principles of democracy.
Let me explain the last item on that list—morality and
democracy. Catholic social doctrine teaches that
unions are an “indispensable element of social life,
especially in a modern industrialized society.” By
federal law, unions are democratic institutions. The
legal process for a union to become the representative
of workers requires an election, wherein employees
vote on whether or not they will be represented by the
union. Majority rule prevails. Contrary to the claims
of the despisers of organized labor, requirements for
all workers to pay dues are not dictated by unions—
they are agreed to in contracts between a union and an
employer. If the employer and the union have not
both agreed in the labor contract to a clause requiring
payment of dues, then there is no such requirement.
Further, before a union contract becomes effective, it
is submitted to the workers for a vote on whether or
not they will accept it. Again, approval is a matter of
majority rule. The option of having a dues
requirement is chosen by the workers casting their
votes. Why do workers almost invariably vote to
approve contracts with a union shop provision?
Because they value the many benefits of having union
representation, and they know that without employee
dues, a union cannot afford to negotiate and enforce
labor contracts.
Senate Bill 1, The Kentucky Right to Work Act,
passed the Kentucky Senate in January by a vote of
24-12. I attended the subsequent House Labor and
Industry Committee hearing on February 12, 2015.
Testimony by KY AFL-CIO President Bill Londrigan
and UFCW Local 227 Representative Caitlin Lally, emphasized the fact that a Right to Work Law is bad
for Kentucky and would be devastating, not only to
Organized Labor, but to all Kentucky workers.
Thankfully, the legislation did not proceed through
the House Labor and Industry Committee and
therefore never became law. Interestingly enough, on
March 3, 2015, Kentucky won a major national award
for business creation! Governor Steve Beshear
announced that Kentucky placed first nationally in
Site Selection magazine’s annual Governors Cup
rankings for new and expanded industry activity per
capita in 2014! Just more proof that Kentucky does
not need or want to be a Right to Work state.

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