The Right to Not Have to Pay For a Job

When I was in graduate school, I had my first experience with a “closed shop”. I had borrowed enough money to pay for my tuition but didn’t do the usual thing that students do, and borrow enough for things like rent and food. So I had to find a job, and one that was fairly flexible as I was in a program that often included weird hours and schedules. I applied to the local grocery store to bag groceries. I got the job and that’s when the store manager told me about the fact that the employees are unionized, that there’s a joining fee and there’d be weekly dues taken out. I immediately had the realization that this job was not for me. I’m working to support me, not someone else. I didn’t need the benefits that a union negotiates, so I want nothing to do with the union. I declined the job and went to work at a non-union pizza shop. Rent money problem solved, food problem solved. Every penny I earned went to either me or the government, not a third-party.
I often remember my experience when I see people complaining about the “free rider” problem, as described in the Providence Journal where Bloomberg’s Michael Kinsley tells us his view of Labor Law 101.

Without a rule like [Taft-Hartley], unions faced a “free-rider” problem: People could enjoy the benefits of union membership, including negotiation of wages, without sharing in the cost. Not only was this unfair to those who did pay their share, but it made organizing a union significantly harder. Why should I pay union dues if my fellow workers don’t?

Ok, I have the solution to this free rider problem and it’s not new. Let me negotiate my own deal, as I do in my non-union job. If I could have done that at the grocery store, I would have stayed. Let me decide whether I want to be in the union, pay their dues and receive the benefits that they have negotiated. Or maybe I don’t want to be in the union, pay their dues and I’ll work out my working arrangements with the employer. That seems to be an easy solution. I’m not calling for outlawing unions, people can still have those and be able to collectively bargain, just allow for a choice. If you choose to not pay the dues, you’re on your own. You don’t get the benefits of the union. If the employer chooses to pay non-union employees much less or offer lesser benefits, I’m ok with that. That is the deal new hires can agree to. Or, they can simply join the union and get the benefits. I don’t see the problem there.
Kinsley also asks:

For principled conservatives, there is another question: Why should there be laws that limit the freedom of individual employers to negotiate any deal they want with their employees? Or at least that ought to be a question for conservatives, though I’ve never seen any of them struggling with it.

Excellent question and one I completely agree with. There should be no laws that prevent me from negotiating any deal with my employer. Exactly! Leave me alone and let me negotiate it. I don’t want someone else doing that for me, and most of all, I don’t want to be forced to pay someone else to do that for me. So no, there should not be any laws that limit the freedom of individual employers to negotiate any deal they want with me.
The other problem that I see with the way unions work in Rhode Island is that the employer needs to collect the employees’ union dues for the union. This is idiotic. Union loyalists will extol the virtues of their union and all the great things they’ve done. Outstanding. I’m happy for them. They see and approve of the benefits they get for membership in the union. If that’s the case, then they should be able to set up and automatic payment from their bank or simply send a check every month.
I personally value the benefit I get from my local YMCA. I like being a member. I set up a bank transfer to automatically pay the YMCA each month so I can continue receiving the benefits of the YMCA. No one requires my employer to withhold my membership dues and send those along to the YMCA, so why is it any different for a union? Could it possible be that the union’s members don’t actually see the benefit and wouldn’t pay it?
I believe we should live in a state where I am not required to pay someone as a condition of my employment. Period. Let me work out the compensation package with my employer. That’s my business. If I can’t have that then let’s at least have the first step where the employer is not burdened with needing to collect a third-party’s dues and send them along. If the third-party wants that money, they can collect it from their members themselves. Anything else just doesn’t make sense.

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Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
8 years ago

Long story, as short as possible. At one time it was necessary for me to join a seafaring union. Having found my way to a particularly decrepit portion of the Battery in Manhattan, I climbed four flights and entered the office. I told the “manager” (red raw silk sport coat, silver tie) that I wanted to join the union. His reply “gimme the money”.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

Right to work saves my household of two $1,100.00 each year. We would not have been able to make our downpayment on a house this winter if we had been forced to join unions and pay dues over the years. Neither of us has had any complaints about our employers (besides the presence of a hateful, grievance-mongering union) and we have been able to negotiate good compensation and benefits for ourselves through the hiring and performance appraisal processes. I don’t want radicals like Pat Crowley representing me by screaming at my boss or bullhorning my building and making me look bad – I’m a talented worker; I have leverage and I can represent myself. If I ever had such a problem with my employer that I was tempted to file a grievance against them, I would simply leave and find a better job instead. I want less money in politics, so I’m particularly happy that $1,100.00 of our money wasn’t funneled to “for sale” politicians as the union surely would have done with it.

Phil
Phil
8 years ago

Kinsley also asks:
For principled conservatives, there is another question: Why should there be laws that limit the freedom of individual employers to negotiate any deal they want with their employees? Or at least that ought to be a question for conservatives, though I’ve never seen any of them struggling with it.
Excellent question and one I completely agree with. There should be no laws that prevent me from negotiating any deal with my employer. Exactly! Leave me alone and let me negotiate it. I don’t want someone else doing that for me, and most of all, I don’t want to be forced to pay someone else to do that for me. So no, there should not be any laws that limit the freedom of individual employers to negotiate any deal they want with me.
I think that you have missed his point. How can principled conservatives interfere with an EMPLOYER’S (not employee)decision to sign and enforce a labor contract with a union that requires all employees to join the union and pay dues. Notice that I capitalized the word employer. ( like your supposed supermarket)

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

Phil – In theory, you’re right, employers should have the right to exclusively bargain with a union if they choose to do so, but in practice, it’s a silly and irrelevant objection to right to work. It’s like asking an animal rights activist, “What if a cow wants to be eaten?” In any case, you’re really objecting to the effect of Federal labor laws, which the states cannot change.

Max D
Max D
8 years ago

There’s whole book of labor laws that tell employers what’s required and what’s restricted yet Kingsley is worried about one law that would give labor the right not to join a union? That’s some serious irony right there.

helen
helen
8 years ago

Patrick,this isn’t on target with the overall gist of your post,but you did mention this and it’s something that really bugs me.
I don’t understand why a person who has presumably put forth the time,energy and money to obtain a four year degree and has gone on to graduate school has not the skills and knowledge to get a better job.
After four years in an institution of higher learning and earning a degree,one should be fit for a better postion than grocery store bagger or pizza place worker.
If one cannot find a position requiring higher skills after obtaining a four year degree,what is the point of obtaining that degree?
Upon graduating from college,one should be prepared to take on a position beyond the lowest skilled and paid economic rungs.
Why don’t colleges prepare students during those four years so that they don’t have to graduate and then take the lowest level jobs?

Patrick
Patrick
8 years ago

Thanks Helen. The answer is because I wasn’t looking for a career. I certainly could have taken a job with my bachelor’s degree but that’s not what I was looking for. I was in a graduate program that required I be in the classroom from 9 am to 1 pm and then in the athletic training room from 2 pm to 5 pm some days, to 10 or 11 pm other days and completely on the road for other days. Jobs that you are referring to can’t hire someone with that kind of schedule. A grocery store or pizza restaurant are usually ok with a responsible 23 year old coming to them with a schedule of availability for the following week and then being reliable with that schedule.
After a year, when I’d finished my graduate program, I did immediately get a job (even had to take my finals a week early to start the job) in the field of my choice, which was actually my dream job that I’d wanted for years. So it all worked out perfectly.

helen
helen
8 years ago

Patrick,thanks for answering and explaining the situation to me. I appreciate it,because I did not understand it before.
It’s wonderful that you got your dream job because I believe as many people as possible should be able to get their dream jobs and that would be so good for all of us and also happily for you personally.
I have a lot of questions about this educational system,for instance,why were not classes in gradute school scheduled so that you could get a more responsible and financially rewarding position while continuing your studies? Those sorts of thing do trouble me.
I had to quit high school when I was 16 years old to work full time to help with the bills. Prior to that,during my freshman year,I had been in the most advanced class in my Catholic high school. They didn’t give scholarships in my parish,but they did give loans.
Unfortunately,my father couldn’t repay them because my mother was so ill and had huge medical bills.
When I transferred to public school it was obvious to me that I could have graduated at a much younger age than usual,but the state I lived in wouldn’t let me,which caused me great hardship because I had to enter the workplace as a full time worker who was a high school drop-out.
Those experiences make me want the best for people who have genuine desire to exceed educationally,but are hel back by financial circumstances or bureaucratic policies.

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