The Missouri House of Representatives has passed a bill to allow workers to opt out of union membership while remaining employed, known as a right-to-work law.
The bill was approved by 92 out of 158 representatives, receiving more support than any previous right-to-work (RTW) bill in the Missouri legislature.
Heritage Foundation Senior Policy Analyst in Labor Economics James Sherk says right-to-work laws defend workers’ rights.
“Workplace freedom laws, or right-to-work laws, prevent unions from getting workers fired for not paying union dues,” Sherk said. “Without them, unions negotiate contracts that make paying dues a condition of employment.
“Right-to-work benefits workers in two ways,” he added. “First, it protects their freedom. It gives them the choice about whether or not to financially support a union rather than enabling the union to force them to pay dues.”
Earning Their Keep
Sherk says right-to-work laws also help workers who choose to stay in the union.
“Right-to-work benefits union members, by forcing their union to earn its keep. Without right-to-work, unions can take their members for granted. The workers have no choice but to pay union dues or get fired,” he said. “Research finds unions pay their top officers $20,000 more a year in states without RTW laws. In RTW states, unions have to earn their members’ voluntary support. This means better services, a closer focus on their members’ interests, and lower costs.”
Surrounded by RTW States
State Rep. Eric Burlinson (R-Springfield), who sponsored the bill, says Missouri is at a competitive disadvantage without these protections.
“We have six states around Missouri that provide workers their freedom: Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Tennessee,” Burlinson said. “When you look at private-sector payrolls according to the U.S. Department of Labor, from 2002 to 2012, the states surrounding us saw an increase of 3 percent, while Missouri saw a decline of 1.6 percent during that 10-year period.
Right-to-work is primarily about giving people more choices, Sherk says.
“No one should be forced to join or financially support an outside organization as a condition of employment,” he said. “Workers have every right to join a union and pay dues, but that should be their choice.”
Rudy Takala ([email protected]) writes from Washington, DC.
“Unions Charge Higher Dues and Pay Their Officers Larger Salaries in Non–Right-to-Work States,” James Sherk, Heritage Foundation, http://www.heartland.org/policy-documents/unions-charge-higher-dues-and-pay-their-officers-larger-salaries-non-right-work-sta/