Posts tagged with: right-to-work

What just happened?

Earlier today the U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4 on a legal challenge to a California law that forces non-union workers to pay fees to public-employee unions.

What was the case about?

California law requires every teacher working in most of its public schools to financially contribute to the local teachers’ union and that union’s state and national affiliates in order to subsidize expenses the union claims are related to collective bargaining. California law also requires public school teachers to subsidize expenditures unrelated to collective bargaining unless a teacher affirmatively objects and then renews his or her opposition in writing every year.

In the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, several plaintiffs, including Rebecca Friedrichs and the Christian Educators Association International, challenged the law claiming that this agency shop provision is a form of state-compelled speech. The Supreme Court was asked to decide:

1. Whether Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 U.S. 209 (1977), should be overruled and public-sector “agency shop” arrangements invalidated under the First Amendment.

2. Whether it violates the First Amendment to require that public employees affirmatively object to subsidizing nonchargeable speech by public-sector unions, rather than requiring that employees affirmatively consent to subsidizing such speech.

What is a “public-sector” union?

A public-sector union is a trade or labor union that represents the interests of employees within public sector or governmental organizations, such as teachers, firefighters, federal government employees, etc.

What is an “agency shop”?

right to workIn places like Chicago, ties between unions and Catholics often run deep. However, with right-to-work becoming a voting issue in many states, the intersection of union membership and church membership is becoming a hot topic. Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich got himself tangled in this arena this week:

At the request of local unions, Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich recently spoke at a West Side union hall about the church’s teachings on work and workers.

After the speech, Democrat House Speaker Michael Madigan and government unions boasted that Cupich and the Catholic Church were on their side.

“The archbishop has said the same thing that we’ve been saying in Springfield,” Madigan said.

Government unions in Illinois promoted their interpretation of the archbishop’s comments online.

“Cupich today reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s longstanding commitment to collective bargaining, to unions … a message a certain governor might want to consider,” Service Employees International Union posted on its Facebook page.

Acton’s Samuel Gregg, clarifies Church teaching regarding unions:

The church supports the right of workers to join unions. Catholic social teaching has never, however, taught that workers are required to join unions — let alone be forced to join unions,” said Samuel Gregg, research director at the Acton Institute, a conservative think tank that studies the intersection of religion and public policy.


Blog author: jcarter
Monday, December 17, 2012

On Friday I linked to MLive’s presentation of two Christian views on right to work. In that article, Rev. Sirico argued in favor of the legislation since it advances the freedom of workers. On the opposing side was Peter Vander Meulen of the Christian Reformed Church. Meulen didn’t argue against the morality of the law, but only complained that it led to further political polarization and harmed the potential for bipartisan support on issues that “make life better for the large majority of people.”

A similar article in the National Catholic Register pits Fr. Sirico against another religious leader, Father Sinclair Oubre, the spiritual moderator of the Texas-based Catholic Labor Network. Fr. Oubre claims that in Right to Work states workers have had “a much harder time exercising their right to associate into unions.” Such a claim is rather dubious. Since federal laws protects the right of workers to associate into unions in every state, it’s unclear how or why right to work laws would affect such decisions.

Blog author: jcarter
Friday, December 14, 2012

MLive asked Rev. Robert Sirico and Peter Vander Meulen, a coordinator of the Christian Reformed Church in North America’s Office of Social Justice, to comment on Michigan’s new Right to Work law.

Meulen says that the change won’t have much impact on the state’s economy but will adversely affect relations between Republicans and Democrats on “just budget priorities” such as Medicaid and energy:

In one fell swoop, with a policy that doesn’t have much effect, we have just trashed an entire future set of possibilities to move forward and have really serious discussions to make life better for the large majority of people. It will be a divided, riven state. The real losers are the moderate progressives like myself and many other people in the CRC (Christian Reformed Church).

In contrast Rev. Sirico believes that authentic social justice is not as a left-wing prerogative, but has to do with liberty that Michigan’s new law promotes:

“The problem is when people hear the term ‘social justice’ they think of it as a set of policy prescriptions, and it’s odd. I think morally sensible, Christian people are going to appeal to principles of social justice. This particular legislation conforms with that because it’s going to advance the freedom of workers to have more opportunities and that, in turn, brings a certain amount of intelligence with it. People are going to make choices based on what their subjective situation is. That promotes a society in which people are going to be better off.

Read more . . .

Video: UAW President Bob King thanks Planned Parenthood, environmentalists, clergy, et al., at anti Right-To-Work Protest looks at the — at first blush as least — strange alliance between the United Auto Workers union and Planned Parenthood on the Michigan Right to Work issue. Elise Hilton of the Acton Institute, interviewed by LifeSiteNews reporter Kirsten Andersen, says that the UAW, Planned Parenthood and other like minded groups are afraid that right-to-work laws will help defund the progressive agenda.

“I don’t think people outside of maybe the leadership of the UAW or Planned Parenthood know about the strong ties between unions and Planned Parenthood,” Hilton told “I don’t think they realize that the president of Planned Parenthood was the keynote speaker for the UAW conference, or that the UAW says on their own website that they ‘strenuously support a woman’s right to choose.’”

The ties between unions and the pro-choice movement go beyond mutual support. The leadership of the two groups overlaps, as well.

Last year, the UAW appointed Mary Beth Cahill director of its national political efforts. Cahill had previously spent five years running EMILY’s list, a political action committee (PAC) dedicated to electing pro-abortion politicians.

UAW President Bob King showered Cahill with praise for her efforts, saying, “During her five years at EMILY’s List, she helped turn the pro-choice PAC into an unrivaled political powerhouse—the largest in the country at the time.”

Read the entire article, with more analysis from Hilton, here.

Blog author: jcarter
Thursday, December 13, 2012

One of the strongest arguments against Right to Work legislation is that such laws exasperates the “free rider” problem. In the context of unions, a free rider is an employee who pays no union dues or agency shop fees, but nonetheless receives the same benefits of union representation as dues-payers. While this concern should not override an employee’s right of free association, it was a concern that, I had always thought was worth taking seriously.

But yesterday I discovered that there is no free rider problem unless a union explicitly chooses to create free riders.

Policy wonk extraordinaire Reihan Salam pointed out a helpful explanation by James Sherk:

What is a Right to Work law?

Right to Work laws are state laws that guarantee a person cannot be compelled to join or pay dues to a labor union as a condition of employment.

righttoworkWhy are Right to Work laws considered a matter of economic freedom?

Economic freedom exists when people have the liberty to produce, trade, and consume legitimate goods and services that are acquired without the use of force, fraud, or theft. Mandatory unionism violates a person’s economic freedom since it forces them to pay a portion of their income, as a condition of employment, to a third-party representative—even if they disagree with the aims, goals, or principles of the representative group.

What’s wrong with being forced to pay for union representation?