In a joint op-ed for Philly.com, Republican congressional candidate Bill Pounds and union organizer Hugh Giordano warn Pennsylvanians about the perils of a pending “Right-to-work” law in the state’s House of Representatives. The proposed legislation comes on the heels of West Virginia’s April decision to become the 26th “Right-to-work” state.
Pounds and Giordano discuss the issue in the context of three mid-century Supreme Court cases that established the duty of fair representation:
The Supreme Court, in Ford Motor Co. v. Huffman (1953), extended the duty of fair representation established in Steele v. Louisville & Nashville Railroad (1944) to unions covered under the National Labor Relations Act, mandating that a union must “make an honest effort to serve the interest of all … without hostility to any.” Under Miranda Fuel Co. (1962), unfair representation of any employee, regardless of union membership, constitutes an unfair labor practice.
These court cases opened the door for nonunion employees to reap the benefits of union membership – collective bargaining, legal representation – without paying dues.
They acknowledge that the duty of fair representation was established to combat discrimination, but they note that it also creates a problem of “free-riders.” As a result, they identify two options moving forward:
There are two paths: Reverse the legal precedent set forth in Ford, Steele, and Miranda and then pass right-to-work; or maintain the current approach, in which, at the minimum, all employees pay union dues but may opt out of union activities while still enjoying the benefits bargained for by the union.
Following the first path makes it clear that employees who do not pay dues will not be protected under a collective bargaining agreement, and the union will not have to represent them in any manner. This arrangement will leave workers as at-will employees and guarantee them only basic protections while insulating the union from unfair-labor-practice charges.
Without right-to-work, employees would pay dues, receive the benefits of union membership, and choose whether or not to be involved in the union. Legislators as well as business owners should support an employee’s right to unionize and acknowledge that union.
The pair make the case that “Right-to-work” is not an acceptable option for Pennsylvanians:
We should be able to keep these safeguards from discrimination in place while maintaining worker protections and removing the gap in equity between union members and nonunion employees.
Workers may decide not to unionize. However, for businesses where employees do choose to organize, right-to-work laws have no place in Pennsylvania.