Maine Lawmaker Proposes Workplace Freedom Bill

Published June 9, 2015

A Maine lawmaker is sponsoring a bill to prohibit requiring union membership as a condition of employment in both private-sector and public-sector workplaces. 

State Rep. Larry Lockman (R-Amherst), the primary sponsor of Legislative Document 489 (LD 489), says his bill would encourage economic growth in Maine and empower workers to decide whether they wish to join a union or donate to the union.

Currently, workers in some workplaces are required to contribute money to unions, regardless of whether they wish to be represented by a union.

‘It Covers Everything’

“LD 489 is a public- and private-sector right-to-work bill,” Lockman said. “It covers everything that needs to be covered. It makes unions entirely voluntary. I’ve got another one, LD 404, which would simply make it illegal for any public employer, like the state or any public entity, to act as a collections agent for a union.”

Lockman says Maine workers should not be forced to join groups in which they don’t wish to participate.

“What if you were employed by a business and as a condition of employment you must join the local Chamber of Commerce?” he said. “Or if you don’t want to join, you still have to pay dues to the Chamber,… and to make it easy for you, your dues will be taken directly out of your paycheck and sent over to the Chamber. 

“Most people would object to that, but what’s the difference between that and compulsory union membership?” he said.

‘Magnet for Entrepreneurs’

Lockman says empowering workers is the key to making Maine a regional economic leader.

“If we became the first New England state to become a right-to-work state, we would become a magnet for entrepreneurs and businesses that want to escape the shackles of compulsory unionism,” Lockman said.

Accelerating Changes

Ohio University economics professor Richard Vedder says economic trends are spurring more states to pass laws against involuntary union membership. Vedder is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.

“There was a period from about 1960 to 2010 where there was very little progress in the right-to-work movement, mostly because both sides of the issue were roughly equal in power,” he said. “But as the private sector labor union membership dropped, in many states, to about 10 percent, we have seen an increase in right-to-work laws.

Currently, 25 states have laws protecting voluntary worker association and dues collection. Vedder says the spread of right-to-work protections has been surprisingly quick.

“If you would have told me ten years ago that Wisconsin and Michigan would today be right-to-work states, I would have said you were smoking something,” he said.

Tony Corvo ([email protected]) writes from Beavercreek, Ohio.

Internet Info:

Casey Ichniowski and Jeffrey Zax, University of Chicago Press, “The Effects of Public Sector Unionism on Pay, Employment, Department Budgets, and Municipal Expenditures”: