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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

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Your summation of the Indiana law ("banning workers from paying union dues if they choose not to belong to a union") is a little off.

The law bans mandatory union membership requirements in association with employment: it bans "closed shops". Workers who do not join the union cannot be forced to pay union dues (as is the case in a "closed shop").

I don't think there's evidence that Gov. Daniels "led" the Indiana legislature's "right to work" effort. I think he was on record as opposing the Republican majority's pursuit of divisive "social" issues like "right to work", de-funding Planned Parenthood, and the constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.

Apparently the one group that doesn't care much for public sector unions is union members themselves. Some Wisconsin unions lost over 50% of their membership after the state law change that disallowed closed shops.

A note on closed shops: the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 banned the closed shop in the United States. Right-to-work laws prohibit what are called "union security" clauses in collective bargaining agreements. Under a union security clause, workers must either join the union that represents their workplace and pay full dues, or decline to join and pay a percentage of full dues as a fee that covers the cost of representation, since both members and nonmembers are legally entitled to representation if they are in a group of workers represented by a union (a "bargaining unit"). So, in a right to work state, all places represented by a union become "open shops", in which workers either join the union and pay dues, or decline to join and pay nothing.

This is different from a closed shop, in which a worker must join a union as a condition of employment.

Aaron Renn points out that some public sector unions in Wisconsin showed significant declines in membership, but there's a couple of important contextual factors:

1. Dues are no longer automatically deducted from workers' paychecks, so those unions are probably still going around trying to collect dues - we'll probably see some fluctuation in membership for a while.

2. The scope of what Wisconsin public sector unions can negotiate in collective bargaining has been sharply curtailed. That might be a factor in a worker's decision to remain a member.

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