After Michigan became a right-to-work state, making union membership no longer a requirement for employment in union shops, a union local began engaging in a practice so outrageous that if should be illegal.
When employees exercise their right to opt out of membership in the Operating Engineers Local 324, their names and place of employment are published in a quarterly “Freeloaders List,” according to National Review Online.
The publication reported:
That puts non-union workers at increased risk of intimidation and violence—something that’s certainly not unprecedented in Michigan. Regardless, there’s currently no law preventing unions such as Michigan’s Local 324 from publishing lists of members who opt out, says Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts.
Furthermore, unions’ claims about “freeloading” are deceptive. Unions do have to offer representation to both dues-paying members and those who opted out—but only because they actually chose to do so during contract negotiations, says Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Unions want to represent all workers regardless of membership status because it affords them greater rights under federal law. Such monopoly-representation unions can force an employer to come to the bargaining table, for example, or file a case with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the employer has failed to bargain in good faith. If a union chose to represent only those workers who pay dues, they would lose these and other powers.
“In every state, unions fight for and are glad to have monopoly representation, so it’s sort of crocodile tears when they complain about it,” Semmens said, according to the National Review. “The complaint [about ‘freeloading’] is something they trot out when it comes to right-to-work, but in reality, monopoly bargaining is something they very much favor.”
Constitutional rights and freedoms to engage in a given activity carry with them the right not to engage in that activity. Freedom of speech implies a freedom to shut up. Freedom to exercise the religion of one’s choice carries with it the freedom not to worship. The right to bear arms comes with a right not to own a weapon.
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In a similar manner, freedom of association, guaranteed to every American under the First Amendment, carries with it a freedom not to associate. That applies to political parties, civic organizations and labor unions, too.
By publishing its “Freeloaders List,” Local 324 of the Operating Engineers is not only playing a very dangerous game that could lead to harassment and even injury, but it’s also casting a chilling effect on workers’ freedom of choice.
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