I am a union member. Joining was part of the hiring process when I became an adjunct professor at Everett Community College a few years ago.
I still carry it with me even though I haven’t taught since then. I wasn’t teaching the class for the money. I appreciated it, but my plan was to tuck a little away for our kid’s college funds and give the rest of it to local charities.
I never had a choice about some of it going to pay union dues, though.
“It’s the law. You have to join,” said the woman in the payroll office rather matter-of-factly when I asked about it.
I might have chosen to join anyway. But being forced to didn’t feel right. It didn’t feel American.
Recently, I met Tom McCabe, who agreed with me. McCabe was many years the executive director at the Building Industry Association of Washington.
Two years ago, he was named CEO of the Olympia-based Freedom Foundation and he’s using the resources of the nonprofit, nonpartisan think-tank to continue his crusade against compulsory union membership in the public workplace.
Right-to-work laws prohibit businesses and unions from reaching agreements that require all workers, not just union members, to pay union dues. Twenty-five states have passed right-to-work laws in the United States, according to the National Right to Work Legal Foundation.
Politicians who used to enjoy a steady stream of financial support from unions are getting nervous while pundits argue it’s a scheme by Republicans to take something away from Democrats.
McCabe and others who support his position claim that giving public employees choice forces unions to strengthen their offer in order to entice prospective members to join.
In Washington, however, worker’s dues are taken from them by law, as I learned a few years ago.
That’s not the whole story, though, according to McCabe. The right-to-work movement is an issue of freedom of choice to supporters, he explains.
“When 46 percent of union members vote for the Republican in the last gubernatorial election but nearly 100 percent of their dues go to defeating him, it’s an awful situation.
“Most union members are afraid to complain for fear of it impacting their employment. But in America, it’s not supposed to be that way,” he adds.
It’s not an issue of whether unions are good or bad, either.
“Of course they’re good and necessary,” says McCabe. “But this ‘deal’ to use the law to take away worker’s freedom of choice is not.”
How this plays out in Washington is still a big question.
“In the end, we’re a voice for the half or so of union members who don’t have one today,” McCabe emphasizes. “As they come to our side and join us, this will become a movement and that might force change that could be good for everyone.”
Tom Hoban is CEO of The Coast Group of Companies. Contact him at 425-339-3638 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.coastmgt.com. Twitter: @Tom_P_Hoban.