Paying your dues promises to become controversial

Jim Baumgart 
Sheboygan County Supervisor

Turning Wisconsin into a “Right-to-Work” state is being discussed and planned by some for the upcoming 2015-2016 legislative session.

Presently, about half the states in the country are “right -to-work” states while the others are not. For those not aware of the term “right-to-work”, you may want to gain a better understanding of the term because it could become controversial.

First, one should understand the term has little to nothing to do with your right to work. There is research that shows some “right-to-work” states might gain slightly in overall employment but they tend to be lower wage jobs compared to states which allow union shops.

In an Editorial in Sunday’s, January 4, 2015, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, they said that Republican Senate Majority Leader, Scott Fitzgerald’s arguments to become a “right-to-work” state “are wafer thin. There is little evidence that right-to-work by itself makes much difference in job creation ...”

The Journal Sentinel Editorial goes on to say “But there is ample evidence that right-to-work tends to depress working class wages.”

So why would someone push such legislation that clearly will anger union families and divide the state even more?

It will be an attack on workers’ rights that likely will bring some protest and even marches to the State Capitol.

Even the Governor, who early on in his career introduced rightto work legislation, calls this fight a major distraction when considering Wisconsin’s major issues, such the state’s slow employment growth, over $2 billion budget shortfall, major transportation funding needs and other critical issues that need to be solved early on in the 2015-16 state budget session.

Clearly most people are aware that pushing Wisconsin into a “right-to-work”state is a goal of some Republicans and some large businesses as a way to weaken and hurt the unions. Unions tend to be supportive of Democratic candidates.

It is certainly raw, tough politics of trying to weaken unions and, as is sometimes said, to the election victors goes the spoils. As suggested earlier, it has little to nothing to do with a person’s right to work or get a job.

Without going into great detail, for employees to get their employer to become a union shop, they have to meet some major requirements set up by the National Labor Relations Board.

But in simple terms, if a majority of workers would sign up and say they want an election, an election would eventually take place.

If that happens and a union is formed, union officers will be selected, dues set by the membership, safety and wage bargaining unit be formed, etc.

In a union shop, everyone needs to pay the dues even those who voted “no” for a union. They don’t need to participate actively in the union (and they can withhold any of their money from going toward elections), but in a union shop, if they gain from the unions efforts (wages, hours, etc) they are expected to pay. In a right-to-work state, they could opt out of paying dues or being in the union.

When the Wisconsin legislature, Sheboygan County Board, or local School Board District come up with their budget and set up taxes and fees to cover the costs, we all have to pay. Unlike a right-to-work state where you can opt out of paying union dues, you cannot opt out of paying taxes When the local school districts adds their cost to your property tax bill - you cannot say “no”. In the past, some people have argued that not having children in the school system should allow them to bypass paying school taxes and related fees.The courts have disagreed.

But when a state becomes a “right-to-work” state, majority voting at the workplace seems to no longer count.

Note: The internet has a wide range of articles dealing with union shops and right-to-work issues. If or when you get a

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