Opinion: Incoming Biden administration likely to go after worker freedom
If President-elect Joe Biden has his way, Michigan workers will be stripped of their freedom to decide for themselves whether or not to financially support a union.
Michigan is one of 27 states that have enacted right-to-work laws to protect workers from being fired simply for refusing to join a union or refusing to fund union activities. In right-to-work states union membership and financial support are voluntary, not forced, giving workers a tool to hold unresponsive union officials accountable.
Polling regularly finds that eight in 10 Americans support this commonsense principle. In fact, polls have found that majorities of Democrats, Republicans and Independents all back right-to-work, as do union members, historically. Yet despite the overwhelming support for right-to-work, the top item on Biden’s labor agenda is the so-called “PRO Act,” a laundry list of union power grabs whose signature provision is the elimination of every state right-to-work law in the country by federal fiat.
Apparently, allowing the union bosses who backed his campaign to extort millions of additional workers to pay up or be fired takes precedence for Biden over freedom for rank-and-file workers. After all, right-to-work laws don’t stop a single worker from joining and paying dues to a union if he or she chooses to voluntarily.
This sop to union bosses at the expense of the rights of individual workers would of course be wrong anytime, but the massive corruption scandal among top officials at the United Auto Workers union provides a glaring example of why workers must be allowed to choose whether to fund union officials’ activities.
Over the past year, readers of The Detroit News could hardly open the paper without learning another revelation about the endemic corruption within the UAW’s upper echelon. More than a dozen people have been convicted, including the past two presidents of the UAW, Gary Jones and Dennis Williams, both of whom pleaded guilty to embezzlement.
According to his guilty plea in September, Williams admitted to conspiring for years with other senior UAW officials to embezzle money and conceal hundreds of thousands of dollars in UAW funds spent on lavish entertainment and personal spending including “multi-month long stays at private villas in Palm Springs, cigars, golfing apparel, green fees at golf courses, and high-end liquor and meals.”
So who could justify granting people like Jones or Williams the power to have workers on the factory floor fired for refusing to fund their salaries and lavish spending? Apparently Joe Biden.
Yet Biden’s agenda for granting union bosses coercive power over individual workers hardly stops with his opposition to state right-to-work laws. The other “PRO Act” provisions are also designed to add millions of other workers into Big Labor’s forced dues-paying ranks.
One key provision would take California’s controversial AB5 law coast to coast. It effectively prohibits actors, musicians, journalists, Uber and Lyft drivers and other freelancers from working as independent contractors so that they can be unionized and added to forced-dues union ranks. Other parts of the “PRO Act” allow union organizers to bypass secret-ballot elections by workers for unionization, and empower government bureaucrats to impose forced-dues contracts even over the objections of both workers and employers.
Beyond the “PRO Act,” expect Biden appointees to roll back the modest reforms the Trump administration has enacted to check union boss coercion. Policies on the chopping block include Department of Labor efforts to increase union transparency, a Health and Human Services Department rule to stop unions from illegally siphoning off Medicaid payments, and multiple reforms by the National Labor Relations Board to eliminate barriers workers face in getting a vote to eliminate a union they oppose.
To test whether Biden supports a particular labor policy, just ask: Would it result in more workers being forced to pay union dues, or else be fired? If the answer is “yes,” you can predict confidently that Biden is for it, even though rank-and-file workers are most often the victims of such coercive union power.
Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee.