Sunday, October 19, 2014

Right To Work Coming to a City Near You?

The Heritage Foundation conducted an interesting study on right-to-work laws, concluding that individual cities are not precludes from initiating such provisions.

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Current Right-To-Work States (including Michigan)

Currently, twenty-four states have provisions which protect workers from forced membership in a union. The latest state, Michigan, passed RTW in December 2012. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker contemplated the reforms, but decided against the heightened political controversies which would resume following the Act 10 Comprehensive reforms of public sector collective bargaining rights.
Missouri tried to pass RTW this year, but the measure failed to gain enough Republicans supporters, even though the Missouri GOP caucus commands supermajority control in the "Show Me State" legislature.

Federal law permits unions to organize, and allows them to coerce individuals seeking employment in certain professions to join those unions. US Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced a national right-to-work bill in Congress last February, which subsequently died.

Still, Paul's efforts were commendable.

US Senator Rand Paul
While federal law does preempt state law, the legislation from the National Labor Relations Board does not specify cities. From

Many local-government officials in those states, though, have simply assumed they cannot pass RTW laws. Labor law is complex, and the instinct of many local officials is simply to avoid rocking the boat. Because valid federal law overrides (or “preempts”) conflicting state or local laws, local officials are often unduly afraid of potential lawsuits. And Section 14(b) of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) expressly authorizes states and territories — but not cities — to pass RTW laws. So, the story goes, Congress must have clearly meant to block local RTW laws.

Understandably, cities do not want to deal with hefty lawsuits from the Department of Justice or other well-funded federal institutions. With rising pension costs, and diminishing city services for some cash-strapped cities, they may consider introducing city-wide right to work legislation and break union strongholds.

Imagine the bold measure from a city council, in which the elected officials require unions to recertify their members every year. Individuals could opt out of joining unions, and the political funding for these organizations would disappear or at least diminish. Public sector unions are taking an undue portions of city revenue. Otherwise wealthy cities find that most of their resources are discharging pensions and benefits, while basic services are disappearing.

Now, union supporters and RTW critics may respond that city laws must submit to state laws as well as federal laws. Yet federal laws have permitted tribal RTW provisions to stand:

 Congressional silence as to local RTW ordinances doesn’t mean that it disapproved of them — in fact, one federal court of appeals went so far as to say that tribal RTW laws are allowed under the NLRA, even though the statute is also silent about tribes. As the U.S. Supreme Court noted in Retail Clerks Local 1625 v. Schermerhorn, Congress added § 14(b) to make “clear and unambiguous” its intention “not to preempt the field” of RTW law.

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Right To Work is a Right which cities may enact

Prior dicta supports local entities, or at least does not prevent them, from enacting RTW. Granted, tribal communities operate on an independent status, as different countries. Nevertheless, cities should consider initiating provisions which would limit the power of unions to coerce members into their associations. Launching legal challenges to union dominance would be a good start toward pension reform, union diminution, and respect for individual rights, taxpayer dollars, and long-term fiscal discipline.

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