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.