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Letters to the Editor

Posted: Sunday, April 15, 2001

'Right to work' states mean fewer benefits for workers

In response to the recent distortions and emotional rhetoric concerning union representation in the workplace, I would like to clarify the misconceptions about collective bargaining and "right to work" legislation.

Collective bargaining is the process utilized by workers, through union representation, to negotiate wages, benefits, grievance procedures, working conditions and other mutual interests. An agreement between management and labor acceptable to both parties is then voted on by the union members for ratification. This activity by union membership is protected under the National Labor Relations Act of 1935. An individual acting alone is not afforded the same protection in negotiations with management and could be "terminated as will."

The "right to work" laws seek to abolish the union security protection in collective bargaining by prohibiting an employer and a union from voluntarily agreeing to make the workplace a union member only business. This results in non-union workers being allowed to work under a union collective bargaining agreement without contributing to any of the costs incurred in the process. Collective bargaining agreements don't always contain a closed shop provision, this is an optional clause. Under "right to work" law, the provision can't even be negotiated.

A related 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision said, "A union-shop arrangement has been thought to distribute fairly the cost of these (representative) activities among those who benefit, and it counteracts the incentive that employees might otherwise have to become 'free riders' -- to refuse to contribute to the union while obtaining benefits of union representation that necessarily accrue to all employees."

In addition to decimating unions by economic and political intervention by government, "right to work" states result in all workers (union and non-union) experiencing a 20 percent reduction in pay, unemployment coverage, worker's compensation and a 23 percent diminishing of health care benefits.

Are "right to work" laws representative of a worker's free choice in a democracy? Are they good for the local and state economy? You decide.

Jake Galley

Soldotna



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