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senate Bill S. 391

Should Workers be Able to Opt Out of Unions?

Argument in favor

People shouldn’t have to choose between joining a union or not being able to work at a job they were offered. Unions spend too much money on political activism, and forcing a worker to fund activities they don’t agree with through dues is unethical.

Catherine's Opinion
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06/16/2015
This is America... They should be able to opt out of anything Union. They should be able to opt out without any reprisals from a union.
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EricRevell's Opinion
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06/17/2015
Folks shouldn't feel coerced into joining a group they don't agree with to get or keep a job. Unions would still exist for people who want to join.
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jackson's Opinion
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08/07/2015
Unions have collected dues from millions of workers and used them to advance political agendas. They claim to stand for the worker, yet this seems to not be the case anymore. Let workers decide whether or not to join a union. We shouldn't require them to participate in political activism if they don't want to.
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Argument opposed

Prospective employees already have a choice -- take the job and join a union or find work elsewhere. States with right-to-work laws tend to have lower wages than states without them, so why would we want this on the federal level?

Jewel's Opinion
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06/25/2015
If a majority of employees in a company want a union, everyone working there should be required to support it. If they prefer to work at non-Union companies, they can do so. Unions created the middle class in this country and, with the assault on unions since the 80s, workers incomes have steadily declined.
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Lynne's Opinion
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05/30/2017
This is just a ploy to weaken unions. If you have a union job and enjoy the benefits you shouldn't be able to opt out. That just makes everyone else have to carry your weight.
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Mary 's Opinion
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05/31/2017
Political activism is not usually paid by union dues, but by separate, voluntary contributions to political action funds. Why should non-union employees get a free ride for all the services provided by unions to all employees?
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
    IntroducedFebruary 5th, 2015

What is Senate Bill S. 391?

This bill amends the National Labor Relations Act and the Railway Labor Act to repeal provisions that allow employers to require employees to join a union in order to get or keep a job.

Provisions that allow railroad carriers to require the payroll deduction of union dues or fees as a condition of employment would also be repealed.

Basically, this bill would allow individuals to decide if they want to join a union when they get offered a job, and if they do — they can choose whether want to have their union dues deducted automatically from their paycheck.

Impact

Workers who would’ve had to either join a union or look for work elsewhere, unions, state governments, federal governments.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 391

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-Depth: Right-to-work laws have been around since the 1940s and 1950s, and historically it has been the choice of a state whether they’d allow employers to require union membership for workers. There are 25 states plus Guam that have right-to-work laws, and three of these states — Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin — have enacted right-to-work laws since 2012.

Technically, unions can only collect dues from workers for collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance procedures — and these so-called ‘forced dues’ make up about 25 percent of what a union spends its dues on. While this omits activities such as political spending, lobbying, and union organizing, many employees feel they are obligated to pay full dues because of the wording “membership in good standing” that unions employers use in their contracts.

Unions have seen their political clout decrease as their membership has declined from 20.1 percent of the workforce in 1983 to 11.3 percent in 2012. But what hasn’t changed is that unions still spend big-time money when elections come around, in 2008 they spent nearly $76 million, and in both 2012 and 2014 they spent about $140 million. And nearly all of this spending goes towards one party, as 91 percent of unions’ 2012 political spending aided Democrats.

In countering efforts to expand the presence of right-to-work laws, unions like the AFL-CIO have pointed out that workers in states with right-to-work laws generally earn less money than their counterparts in states without such laws.

A study done by the Economic Policy Institute corroborates the AFL-CIO’s claims about lower wages in right-to-work states, but they also have lower unemployment rates and lower cost of living than their non-right-to-work counterparts.


Media:


Summary by Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Flickr user JD Hancock)

AKA

National Right-to-Work Act

Official Title

A bill to preserve and protect the free choice of individual employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations, or to refrain from such activities.

    This is America... They should be able to opt out of anything Union. They should be able to opt out without any reprisals from a union.
    Like (97)
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    If a majority of employees in a company want a union, everyone working there should be required to support it. If they prefer to work at non-Union companies, they can do so. Unions created the middle class in this country and, with the assault on unions since the 80s, workers incomes have steadily declined.
    Like (161)
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    This is just a ploy to weaken unions. If you have a union job and enjoy the benefits you shouldn't be able to opt out. That just makes everyone else have to carry your weight.
    Like (121)
    Follow
    Share
    Political activism is not usually paid by union dues, but by separate, voluntary contributions to political action funds. Why should non-union employees get a free ride for all the services provided by unions to all employees?
    Like (82)
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    Folks shouldn't feel coerced into joining a group they don't agree with to get or keep a job. Unions would still exist for people who want to join.
    Like (70)
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    Employees that would opt-out but still reap the benefits of union collective bargaining are free-riding - this has the real possibility of bankrupting the union representing these workers, as the incentive to free-ride is only checked by the social pressure of one's co-workers. Instead of enabling a complete opt-out of union fees, it should be made very clear (through statute, if necessary) that workers have the explicit right to only pay the core union fees with no legal reprisal from the union that represents them.
    Like (51)
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    Unions have collected dues from millions of workers and used them to advance political agendas. They claim to stand for the worker, yet this seems to not be the case anymore. Let workers decide whether or not to join a union. We shouldn't require them to participate in political activism if they don't want to.
    Like (49)
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    Unions help with more than just pay & benefits! Child labor laws, minimum wage, safety regulations, workman's comp for injury, sick leave are all due to unions. Everyone at the job benefits so everyone should join & contribute!
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    They free-ride on the union's work.
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    Our union shop can only be made so by the existing employees. If they unionize and the salaries of all employees who work there are protected by the union negotiations, then it does not make sense to allow employees to opt out and take advantage of those benefits without being a member. If the employee body decides as a group to drop union membership then that makes this totally unnecessary
    Like (34)
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    It sounds like a good idea on paper but it's really not.
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    As a member of a union, I am very aware of workers in my occupation that may not have union representation in different areas of the country. Across the board, the employees in a union enjoy better benefits, time off, workplace safety protections and wages than the employees in right to work states or with no union representation. Yeah, unions spend money on politics. That's a fact of life and that is how they effect change. Your union dues are not wasted, they are used to represent your interests for you.
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    So called right to work laws are a farce. Where these laws exist, safety is second, wages are lower, and poverty is higher. These laws represent a form of slavery, forcing union representatives to advocate for people who don't pay their share of dues to cover that representation.
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    I was in a union. It bugged me that the Union would use my dues to support organizations and Politicians I did not agree with.
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    People should not have to be banned from jobs because they don't agree with the politics of a union.
    Like (9)
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    Right to work laws do not help working families.
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    No. Unions, corrupt though some may be, automatically protect workers who aren't even in their ranks. Unions brought us the weekend and ensure fair, collective bargaining. Look at the giant messes in laughably named "right to work states. Don't be fooled by anti-inflammatory sentiment. Without strong unions, the middle and working classes are at the mercy of the powerful.
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    Right to work is essentially right to face a corporation by yourself, good luck with that. Dividing workers is the corporate plan, unified workers gives the middle class power and a seat at the table where decisions are made.
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    This bill does not promote Liberty, but rather the loss thereof. Sure, unions take your money and use it for activism. But they also use it to promote worker's interests - your interests. Union membership gives you the ability to choose whether your terms of employment, dictated by the employer or the wider norms of society, are acceptable, and for that, unions must be given what they are due. This bill will further tilt the balance of influence away from the employees and toward the mighty corporation. Let's remember that unions were created out of necessity, and that necessity still exists today.
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    If the scabs are willing to work for less pay, benefits & rights alongside their union coworkers they have my blessing. I have yet to meet a scab that's willing to sign off on that.
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