Times are tough, and every community is desperate for new jobs–and new ideas to bring new jobs. In Kentucky, Gov. Ernie Fletcher has resurrected a tired, old idea: right-to-work-for-less.
Despite the “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!” bleating from the business magnates, the governor’s “Employee Choice” initiative is not some bold, innovative solution to bring new business and good jobs.
Kentucky, like most states, has been rejecting right-to-work-for-less for nearly 60 years. Just bringing it up again doesn’t make it new, or innovative, or even good.
It’s union-busting, pure and simple.
Union jobs have union contracts, union benefits and union protection. Non-union jobs–also known as employment-at-will–don’t.
Right-to-work-for-less means, in short, that you live in a state where the law says you can work at a union job without joining the union and paying dues (or financially supporting the union without joining).
Each state decides whether it will be right-to-work-for-less or not. Currently only 22 states, mostly in the South and West, have laws that allow people to work at union jobs without paying.
Everywhere else, people must live up to their responsibilities.
In his recent State of the Commonwealth address, Gov. Fletcher said: “I recommend we give our workers the choice that has led to greater economic prosperity for families in our competitive states. Nearly half of those companies looking to build new plants won’t consider closed-shop union states. We must take Kentucky off their ‘No-Call’ List.”
The current push for right-to-work-for-less isn’t about pursuing a trend. Most states have been one or the other for decades. A few states are trying to sell this old saw as the remedy for the disappearing-jobs blues.
No one really believes that right-to-work-for-less states get the jobs. Businesses seriously pursuing a low-road strategy are running to China. What does bring and keep jobs in America is an educated workforce and technology.
But now, several states, including Kentucky, are being urged to go right-to-work-for-less.
Right-to-work-for-less is temptation. It says to a working person: “Here’s something for nothing. You can get union wages, union benefits, union service, union protection, all the benefits of being union and you don’t have to pay for it. Let the good-hearted chump that works next to you pay for it.”
The law shouldn’t allow or encourage that.
Plus, working people, right-to-work-for-less isn’t the “good deal” they are trying to sell us. When you get something for nothing, you get what you pay for. As economist Milton Friedman famously said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”
A union without members and money is a weak union with weak wages, weak benefits and weak protection. Take a look around you; the good jobs are the union jobs. Those jobs didn’t get to be good jobs with weak unions. Strong unions get working people what we deserve.
No one should be forced to work for free. Businesses won’t.
Business people, ask your insurance carrier to cover you without premiums. Ask your trade association to speak for you without dues. Ask your doctor, lawyer, or accountant to take care of you without a bill. You know the answer: they’ll say they can’t, and so they won’t.
But union people can’t say no. If more states change their laws to right-to-work-for-less, more union members will have to provide for people who work next to them but refuse to help out!
Right-to-work-for-less is outrageous. The Commandment says, “Thou shalt not steal.” Working people who take union wages expecting their co-workers to foot the bill are stealing from their co-workers.
The Bible says, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (II Thess. 3:6-13). Working people who even think about being free-lunch free-loaders ought to be ashamed.
Shame on governments and business that tempt working people into sin.
Chris Sanders is political counsel for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Kentucky and member of Highland Baptist Church in Louisville.
Working in law, labor, faith and politics, he is a union-side lawyer and former AFL-CIO official who has served the United Food and Commercial Workers for years. National legal counsel for Jobs with Justice, he represents historically Black Simmons College of Kentucky in Louisville.