A Former Union Thug’s Take On Right-to-Work: What’s Right & What’s Not…

Having spent nearly a decade as a former union representative and activist (aka “union thug”) in a Right-to-Work state, it has been interesting to discuss and watch the activities and debates over the Right-to-Work battles occuring within the various states. Having been on both sides of the labor-management equation, it’s easy to see the two sides of the coin, pluses and minuses, that come into play with Right to Work legislation.

However, since Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels signed Right-to-Work legislation on Wednesday, making the Hoosier State the nation’s 23rd Right-to-Work state and, coincidentally, Ohio’s Attorney General approved language that will allow a Ron Paul supporter and Tea Party consultant to use his “Ohioans for Workplace Freedom” to gather signatures to put Right-to-Work legislation on Ohio’s November ballot, perhaps it’s time we explore what’s right and what’s wrong with Right to Work.

What is Right-to-Work? First, for those unfamiliar with Right-to-Work laws, it is easy to be misled by the hyperbole often thrown around (mostly by unions and their allies) that Right-to-Work has anything to do with anything other than the collection of union dues. It doesn’t.

Very simply, Right-to-Work laws outlaw a union’s ability to require employees to pay union dues (or agency fees) as a condition of employment. In states without Right-to-Work laws (known as Non-Right-to-Work states), it is legal for a company and a union to agree to a contract that requires every employee in the bargaining unit to pay dues or be fired.

For a union, the ability to collect union dues is the lifeblood of the union; it is how they function, it is how they get paid. Therefore, the inability to require dues for their services (whether good or bad) threatens their very existence which is why, very often, unions in non-right-to-work states will strike over their ability to collect dues.

As importantly, it should be noted that, since Right-to-Work laws only came about as a result of the 1947 Taft-Hartley Amendments to the NLRA, Right-to-Work laws apply only to companies and employees covered under the National Labor Relations Act. They do not apply, for example, to airline and railroad companies and employees, since they are covered under the Railway Labor Act. This is why airline workers in Texas (or any other Right-to-Work state) can be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

  • Note: Even in Non-Right-to-Work states, it is possible to removed forced dues from a union contract through a ‘Deauthorization Election.’

The Union Argument. For unions, there is a legitimate issue that arises with Right-to-Work laws and that is the requirement to represent so-called “free loaders”—those employees who pay nothing to the union, but are “entitled” to union representation as well as “enjoy” (or suffer) the union-negotiated wages and benefits. This, however, is part of the problem with the foundation of the National Labor Relations Act.

Since the enactment of both the RLA and NLRA, unions have been granted “monopoly bargaining power” privileges, or the ability (or right) to represent entire bargaining units (even those who don’t want the union). However, this fundamental problem cannot be addressed unless federal labor laws are entirely re-written or eliminated.

The double-edged sword of monopoly bargaining power is that unions in Right-to-Work states are required to represent non-members as well as dues-paying members. To a union representative, it is frustrating to have a “free loader” demand a grievance be filed on his behalf over something as benign as a vending machine continually being broken and taking his money, all the while knowing that this individual will never join the union or pay union dues, not out of ideology, but because he is cheap. [Yes, this actually happened.]

The Upside of Right to Work. The economic impact of enacting Right-to-Work laws has been largely beneficial to those states as they do attract more business and incomes do rise. In that regard, because there is less union density in Right-to-Work states, unions decrying the fact that Right-to-Work entices companies to leave Non-Right-to-Work states is accurate.

In Indiana’s case, according to one study:

…if Indiana had adopted such a law in 1977, by 2008 per capita income would have been $2,925 higher—equating to $11,700 higher for a family of four.  Another way to put it: Indiana’s personal income in 2008 would have been $241.9 billion, 8.4 percent more than the actual $223.2 billion. Nearly $19 billion in annual income was lost because of Indiana’s lack of a right to work law.

Just as importantly, unions in Non-Right-to-Work states often use union dues to fund political activities to elect anti-business politicians [mostly Democrats] who, in turn, chase more businesses away by creating more burdensome regulations and higher taxes. Ironically, the more unions are successful in Non-Right-to-Work states, the more it hurts them by making “union states” less attractive to business investment and, as a result, less jobs are created (if not lost). [See California, for example.]

The Downside to Right-to-Work. While Right-to-Work laws do have real economic benefits, unionized workplaces in those states are often rife with division between union dues payers and non-members. Very often, non-members in those workplaces are subject to harassment or harangued by union members and, occasionally, a “bounty” is placed upon them by union officials to try to get members to sign up non-members.

  • In the 80s, our union paid between $15 and $25 per new member, although other unions pay more today.

Legislative Action Vs. Ballot Initiative

With Indiana’s passage of Right-to-Work legislation yesterday, the Hoosier State’s AFL-CIO boss, Nancy Guyott, shouted from the Statehouse steps, “We’ll take our state back, one citizen at a time! You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”

It is worthwhile to note this because, in Indiana’s case, the Right-to-Work legislation was passed over and above the tantrums of union-bought Democrats. During the fight inside the Statehouse, union-bought Democrats attempted to have Right-to-Work placed on the ballot in November.

The purpose of this effort was simple. Union-bought Democrats like to ignore the fact that the United States is a Republican-form of Democracy. If given the opportunity to have Right-to-Work placed on November’s ballot, unions would spend tens of millions of their members’ money on deceptive advertising to defeat the legislation, as well as to turn out votes for Barack Obama and against “those evil Republicans.” In effect, it is running two campaigns for the price of one.

This brings us back to Ohio. Ron Paul supporter and Tea Party consultant Chris Littleton is spearheading an effort to put Right-to-Work on Ohio’s November ballot. If successful in getting enough signatures to have the initiative placed on the ballot, Littleton and his compadres will likely do nothing more than ensure an Obama victory in Ohio.

With unions collecting more than $8 billion per year in union dues, no amount of money Littleton can raise will be enough to outspend the unions on the issue Right-to-Work—as evidenced by the recent fight over SB5 (Issue 2) in November.

In fact, union bosses and Democrats are likely hoping for Littleton to get enough signatures to put Right-to-Work on the ballot. [Don’t be too surprised if unions, either directly or indirectly through third-party operatives, quietly encourage people to sign the petitions.] Once Right-to-Work is on the ballot, unions can turn Ohio into World War IV (again).

Regardless of the amount of money Littleton and his associates may make from putting Right-to-Work on Ohio’s ballot, his efforts put the rest of the nation at risk of seeing Barack Obama win Ohio and, as a result, likely re-election.

Although Ron Paul has been cagey on stating he would not run as a third-party candidate, his son, Rand Paul, has stated that it would be impractical, knowing that it would ensure an Obama victory. Hopefully, his Ohio supporters are as practical in that regard when it comes to placing Right-to-Work on November’s Ohio ballot.

As the saying goes: “Pick battles big enough to matter, small enough to win.” Or, in the case of Ohio, another way to put this is: Forego the battle for now, if it helps you win the war later.

With the nation nearing $16 trillion in debt and owing $117 trillion in unfunded liabilities, despite the legislature in Indiana winning Right to Work, putting a Right-to-Work initiative in Ohio is not worth the risk. Not now. Not this year.



“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776


  • Call it class warfare, call it deregulation, or call it trickle down obstructionism… Make no mistake; this is about corporations eliminating hurdles to exploit Americans. As I begin, I think of the people of the Occupy Wall street movement, I think of all hard working people who have made this country great. I think of my Grandfathers struggle to bring the union to the coal mines of West Virginia. I hope and pray they accept me as one of their own and allow me to stand with them. GOD Bless You All.
    I expected union representation and only received hypocrisy… For ten years I have been trying to expose the SEIU local 1 Chicago Union for what I believe is fraud and corruption. I am attaching a copy of a SEIU Local 1 grievance form dated 15 May, 2002…Which I filed with the SEIU Union. I have marked this as ( exhibit A ) for your reference. The grievance written by union business agent John Zarris, states I have been required to work above my classification without being paid per the union contract, a contract which was agreed to between my employer, “Mid America management corps” and my union “SEIU local 1 Chicago”.
    The complaint of the grievance was my employer required me to accept a 24 hour 7 days a week emergency call, required to respond within 20 minutes of page. Please note; being in a Required Emergency call situation is NOT in the job description of my (Helper- A) classification as defined in the union contract.
    After a six month wait, On 18 November, 2002 at my place of employment, I received a fax letter from SEIU local 1 union representative John Zarris. I am attaching a copy of this fax letter dated November 18, 2002. I have marked this as ( exhibit B ) for your reference…
    The Fax from the SEIU 1 union representative John Zarris clearly states the union’s support of my grievance and also states “should I have any problems with my employer regarding these matters, please call”. I was immediately terminated upon my supervisors receiving this notification, and the SEIU local 1 union DID NOTHING to secure my job. It took Local 1 union rep John Zarris more than a week to return my many attempts and messages concerning my termination. On the phone with Union rep. John Zarris, I can’t explain my feeling when Mr. Zarris said “he was sorry for my termination, but there is nothing he can do to help me”. In shock, I said “that’s it! What am I supposed to do”, Mr. Zarris replied “Get yourself a good attorney” and ended the call. The SEIU local 1 Chicago refused any further contact with me.
    I took the advice of union Rep. John Zarris and hired a Mr. Gary Abrams of Abrams and associate law offices, in downtown Chicago. After much money and many years later attorney Abrams informed me, I DO NOT have a case because I DID NOT have a written agreement with “Mid America management corps”. Concerning my work responsibilities. I questioned attorney Abrams, “isn’t the union contract a written agreement”? Attorney Abrams informed me public policy takes precedent over the union contract, the level of proof needed, just wasn’t there, it’s a very complicated system” he said.
    The attached grievance form and subsequent letter of support from the SEIU 1 union Chicago speaks volumes by their self’s. I did nothing wrong, I filed a legitimate grievance; SEIU agreed with me, my employer had done wrong. In the end I was terminated for filing this grievance, my termination was nothing more than outright blatant cold hearted retaliation by Mid America management corp.
    As for SEIU Chicago, they ran and hid. If the SEIU Chicago union won’t stand up and protect a dues paying member who the union knows to be in the right, then the question must be ask, Just who is the union protecting. During most of my eleven years of employment with Mid America management corp. the president of the company sat on the board of trustees Of the Chicago SEIU local 1 union. I believe this is a conflict of interests and speaks right at one of the big issue of our time, corporate power and influence, greed, fraud, corruption. I am speechless; this is not the union my Grandfather envisioned so many years ago. This is not the kind of union the members of SEIU local 1 union deserve.
    I stand with any labor union that supports its members and works for equality and justice for all people. SEIU Local 1 Chicago only supports its own interests. They didn’t protect me, so who do they protect? I worked many years in apartment building maintenance in the west burbs of Chicago. As a past local 1 union member, I can tell you first hand, when it came to the local 1 union supporting me when I needed them, THEY DID NOTHING. I filed and won my grievance with the union. My employer Mid America Management Corp. terminated me the same day I won my grievance. The SEIU #1 did nothing. . I feel I must do something to stop what I believe is criminal action. I wish the people responsible flushed out and dealt with in accordance with the laws of the United States of America. We as people must besiege fraud and Corruption and destroy it anywhere it is found and we must do this for each other. Over the years I have made countless attempts to bring this to the attention of the proper authorities, but either no one is listening or no one cares. I believe where there is smoke there is fire, I believe my situation is the smoke that marks a big fire of fraud and corruption in the SEIU Chicago union that needs extinguished in the worst way. Corporations of corruption have been putting good hard working union members and non-union members out of work for a long time; I have been shouting this since 2002 at the top of my voice. Please see; ( seiu) check out the grievance and subsequent letter of support from SEIU local 1 Chicago that got me immediately terminated from my job of 11 years…
    SEIU local 1 allowed corporate power and influence to reverse the outcome of an already decided and documented grievance. If any corporation is able to affect the final outcome of a labor grievance in this way, then collective bargaining is only an illusion.
    I hope my union brothers and sisters of the past understand this is not an attack on them or the precept of the union. I believe I am due clarification, I believe we are all due clarification, if for no other reason than ensure it never happens to anyone again.
    Please stand with me and demand answers.
    God Bless America
    Thank You
    Michael D Daugherty

  • Whoa. You hired a lawyer who DID NOT tell you to immediately file a duty of fair representation case against the union at the labor relations board? Particulalry when you were fired ONLY for filing a grievance and the union didn’t defend you. You’d have a case against both the employer and the union. Strikes me as odd an employment lawyer didn’t know that.

    Something is fishy here. You dont “win” your grievance when the union sends you a memo (unless it has the employers signature.) And what was on your termination paperwork? Surely not “filing a grievance.” I’m guessing they paged you and you didn’t answer thinking you didn’t have to because you were sure it wasn’t in your contract. Work first, grieve later. You already had a grievance in the works so ya know….why do what your boss says when the union says you are right. If you refuse aa direct order, you can be canned for insubordination under “just cause” even if you’ve been there for over a decade. No shock that the union didn’t take that case.

    Unions have a tough gig. When they stand up for people who are obviously off like this guy ( he’s still frothing nearly a decade later) they are bad for business competitiveness. When they don’t spend thousands of dollars defending the shop floor crazy guy…they are corrupt. Go figure.

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