How 'free' are union workers really?

Striking worker outside of a plant in Wisconsin

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

BOB MOON: The House just passed a law that makes it easier for workers to form unions against the wishes of their paymasters. The Employee Free Choice Act does away with an employer's right to demand a secret ballot before a union can be formed.

Labor groups say that a drawn-out election process gives employers time to intimidate workers. But management attorney and commentator Seth Borden says the new law has nothing to do with worker rights.


SETH BORDEN: Employees should have the right to decide if they want a union — after getting all the facts and opinions from the union, other workers and the employer.

Instead, unions want to skip election representation campaigns and rush workers back into the fold as a way of breathing life into a movement dying of its own accord.

Why are unions so afraid of free speech? Maybe because the objective information workers get from other sources will contradict the union's one-sided, pie-in-the-sky sales pitch.

For example: workers often think — incorrectly — that union bargaining means starting at the status quo and only improving wages and benefits. But unions understand that bargaining involves some give-and-take. And sometimes, they negotiate provisions that benefit the union more directly than they do the workers.

For example: why would an employer agree to spend its resources to automatically deduct union dues from workers' paychecks for the union? Maybe, if the union agreed to save the company money by giving up a costly employee benefit, such as a company's 401k match.

Union members also pay fees and assessments in addition to their union dues.They may well wonder what they're getting for all that money. After all, unions regularly provide six-figure salaries for their officers, some of whom double- and triple-dip by holding multiple union offices. And if unions want workers to believe that employers unduly control them, then workers might want to take a look at the unions, too.

All unions have constitutions — hundred-page rulebooks that serve as binding contracts between the union and each worker. So, say a union calls a strike and a member keeps working to feed his or her family, to pay the bills. That worker can end up paying hefty union fines as well.

Unions know that workers who consider all of this in making their "free choice" increasingly choose "no union." And that's why they're asking their new friends in Congress to make it easier to force workers into it.

MOON: Attorney Seth Borden practices at the labor and employment firm of Kreitzman, Mortensen and Borden.

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