Forced Union Dues and the Freedom to Choose

A recent 140 character discussion with a fellow twitterer regarding the UAW prompted me to think, are forced union dues a violation of a workers’ civil rights?  Yes they are!

This discussion was prompted by an article in the Detroit News titled, “UAW works to get members to vote” during which the Right-to-Work topic was brought up.  My twitter friend stated,

“I’m still on the fence with it all because although I do believe each member should have the choice to pay dues, I also believe if you choose not to pay dues, you lose any and all of union negotiated benefits.”

He goes on to state,

“I agree there should be a choice to pay dues, but with the choice not to pay comes consequences.  Just like I have the freedom to pay my bills or not, if I choose not to pay them, eventually I’ll lose whatever those bills pay for.”

So my twitter friend believes that my civil right to life, my right to make my own choices, my right to make a career choice that’s right for me, my right to make my own personal decisions all should be denied to me on the basis of whether or not I pay a forced membership fee to an organization whose ideology I do not support or believe in.

He then  goes on to state,

“Everyone in the union had that freedom of choice when they were hired in. If people are so up in arms over paying dues they should have refused the job to work in a union establishment. We all had the choice.”

Is that a rational statement?  Of course not.

I would have to ask my twitter friend, is this scenario rational?  You recently move into  city “Z”, that 75 years ago, Cable Company “X” provided the infrastructure for.  As a condition of living in this city, you MUST pay $150/month for this cable service and you MUST purchase it from Cable Company “X”, who with a monopoly, is not accountable for the the level of service it provides, because it is the sole provider.  According to you my twitter friend, I should tell you to move to a place you would rather not live if you don’t like the single choice for cable provided by Cable Company “X”.  I wouldn’t think of imposing such irrationality on you.

Being forced to pay union dues as a condition of employment is not freedom of choice.   Being forced to choose from only one union for representation is not freedom of choice.  In exchange for my right to pursue a career most beneficial to me I am mandated to pay union dues to only one available union!  So basically what my friend, and most die-hard union members are suggesting is I should be punished for demanding a free choice, punished for exercising my civil rights, and be denied economic autonomy based on mandated membership in the one and only available union organization.

He states,

“…they can opt out. I have no issue with that but once they opt out, they should lose 100% of what they receive benefit wise from the union.”

This denial of civil rights, evidenced in his statement above, is a direct contradiction to what he and the UAW organization claim to stand for and protect.  It is a direct violation of both democratic and UAW principles.  What a blatant hypocrisy!  His statement also shows how the UAW has convinced their members that it is the UAW that provides these benefits to the employee.   These benefits are provided and funded by the company, not the UAW!  Putting that aside for just a moment, consider this, could I, or another union have negotiated the same or better benefits?  One will never know because of mandates imposed on employees by the UAW or other unions in non right-to-work states.

So can I, as someone with principles that are mainly conservative and generally agree with those of the Republican Party be guaranteed equal representation and equal treatment at the workplace if I have chosen not to fund the Democratic leaning UAW? Can I expect the UAW, like it says on their website, to secure equal economic and social justice for all people?  Could I ask that the dues collected from me be donated to the Republican Party? No, I have learned that I cannot expect to be treated equally by an organization that considers itself to be the epitome of equality and protector of civil rights.

If the UAW were truly about equality and truly supported the principles they say they do then they would not fear free choice in the workplace.  They would not fear people opting-out of paying forced union dues.  They would not fear that the services they provide are not worth the price being paid.  They would not fear other unions representing employees, nor fear the employee representing themselves in the workplace.  They would not fear a policy giving members the freedom to request an equitable portion of their union dues go to a political party other than the Democrats.  Right-to-Work is an impetus for the union to truly recognize equality and let the employees determine the truth worth of what the UAW does or does not provide.

A recent article states the union dumped 7.5 million dollars into the governor’s races in Michigan and Wisconsin.   How much choice did union members have in allocating their money to such an expense?  What choice did those UAW members who have a different political affiliation have?  Thanks to Right-To-Work an employee’s hard earned money will no longer be spent without a truly free choice.

To be fair to my twitter friend, yes, I knew what I was getting into when I took the job at Ford Motor.  I also knew what the starting pay scale was and I knew that it was the right decision for me to take the job, as my civil rights guarantee me.  I did not have a choice to take the job AND forego the union dues.  I did not have a choice to choose a union other than the UAW.    Right-to-work has given me back my freedom to choose, has given me back my civil rights and I no longer will be asked to pay the price for battles fought long ago.  At the upcoming contract expiration I will truly be able to say “Paid In Full”.

Here are two great articles promoting free choice.

Vernuccio: Bring democracy to Michigan workplaces
Volkswagen Opens Door to Employees For Self-Representation

Give me a choice and I may choose differently.  If there is no other choice than the UAW, I choose to opt out!

Todd Lemire

About Sacred Grace

I’m an ordinary man who is trying to understand our extraordinary journey.
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