When Michigan became a right-to-work state last year, unions misleadingly contended that it was unfair because they would be forced to represent even those who were no longer paying dues. Now, Operating Engineers Local 324 has made this accusation personal: When workers opt out of union membership, the union publishes their names and places of work in a quarterly “Freeloaders List.”
That puts non-union workers at increased risk of intimidation and violence—something that’s certainly not unprecedented in Michigan. Regardless, there’s currently no law preventing unions such as Michigan’s Local 324 from publishing lists of members who opt out, says Richard Berman, executive director of the Center for Union Facts.
Furthermore, unions’ claims about “freeloading” are deceptive. Unions do have to offer representation to both dues-paying members and those who opted out—but only because they actually chose to do so during contract negotiations, says Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation.
Unions want to represent all workers regardless of membership status because it affords them greater rights under federal law. Such monopoly-representation unions can force an employer to come to the bargaining table, for example, or file a case with the National Labor Relations Board claiming the employer has failed to bargain in good faith. If a union chose to represent only those workers who pay dues, they would lose these and other powers.
“In every state, unions fight for and are glad to have monopoly representation, so it’s sort of crocodile tears when they complain about it,” Semmens says. “The complaint [about “freeloading”] is something they trot out when it comes to right-to-work, but in reality, monopoly bargaining is something they very much favor.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for National Review as a Thomas L. Rhodes Fellow for the Franklin Center. She is also a senior fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum.