Right-to-Work Laws can Coexist with Pro-Union Laws [01/01/11]
What are Right-to-Work Laws?
Right-to-work laws keep unions from requiring workers to be part of the union in order to work. This has the added effect of letting new workers cross the picket line when a strike occurs. These laws strip most of the bargaining power from workers and keep unions from forming. Right-to-work should remain inactive for the majority of a union/company relationship but should be activated in certain situations to provide a balance of power between owners and labor.
Georgia is a right-to-work state. In the fifties, industry started coming here because the lack of unions meant lower wages and higher profits. Right-to-work laws have been good for attracting businesses, but owners have too much power over labor. Lack of pro-union laws, along with right-to-work laws, keep unions from forming.
Northern states have the opposite situation. They have no right-to-work laws and unions are present and very powerful. They do a great job of raising the wages of workers, but sometimes they raise them so much that companies can't make a competitively priced product.
A New Policy for Right-to-Work
In order to maintain a fair balance, business should get a limited form of right-to-work, but labor should also get support from the state such as protection for whistleblowers and closed borders.
The main purpose of unions should be to ensure safe and productive conditions for workers. If a union demands things like education, safer equipment, safer procedures, or health insurance, then right-to-work should remain inactive. But if the union demands higher wages, then the owners should have the ability to enact right-to-work. Minimum wage laws should ensure that right-to-work would only have to be implemented when unions are asking for a wage beyond their basic means.
However, unions could demand education assistance to allow workers to move up in the company. The government might even assist. In such a case, the worker would earn a higher wage because they would earn more money for the company. This would be beneficial to both labor and management.
A New Policy for Forming and Maintaining Unions
We have to reform the way in which unions are formed so that they only exist when needed. For workers of a company to initially setup a union, 40% of the workers should have to vote for the union. Two years later, 60% of the workers should have to vote to keep the union in order for the union to stay intact. This allows the workers to vote out the union if they are unsatisfied and it gives companies a chance to reform their work environments. In two years, the company may have reformed and the workers no longer think the union is worth the time and money.
When the elections actually take place, they will be done by a secret ballot regulated by the government and not by check card. When unions use an open voting system such as check cards, workers may get pressured or coerced into voting for a union when they really don't want to.
Unions also have to become involved with the management of workers. If the company and the other workers think a worker is incompetent, the company will want to either fire him or retrain him. The union should support this decision because an incompetent worker hurts the company and eventually the workers and the union. We need to develop laws that will assure this kind of union behavior without the government getting directly involved.
A Future of Balance
There is no reason why Georgia or any other state cannot have a combination of pro-union and right-to-work laws. Right-to-work laws should give companies a needed counterbalance to the demand of excessively high wages. Pro-union laws should focus on making sure unions can form and dissolve as needed and that workers have safe and productive lives.