“Right-to-Work” Provides $172 in Free Services to Non-Union Workers at Union Expense

A lawsuit over West Virginia’s new anti-labor “right-to-work” law helps us understand what’s at stake in South Dakota’s Initiated Measure 23, the fair-share union dues proposal.

Last February, the West Virginia Legislature passed a Koch-brothers-endorsed law ending the requirement that employees pay dues to the unions that represent them in contract negotiations, with the intent of reducing the power of organized labor and luring big corporate employers to the state. In May, the AFL-CIO and other unions sued West Virginia to overturn this law. Yesterday evening, a circuit court judge enjoined the law pending resolution of that lawsuit. The unions presented the following argument about the financial impact of this anti-labor law:

The law, which allows workers in union shops to opt out of paying union dues, is an illegal taking of union and union members’ property, since federal labor law requires unions to represent all employees covered by collective bargaining agreements, whether they pay dues or not.

Ken Hall, president of Teamsters Local 175, in South Charleston, and secretary-treasurer of Teamsters International, testified that members of Local 175 would end up paying an extra $172 in union dues to cover union services provided to so-called free-riders [Phil Kabler, “Kanawha Judge Blocks WV Right-to-Work,” Charleston Gazette-Mail, 2016.08.10].

Let’s see… the South Dakota Education Association represents more than 5,000 teachers in our state. We have over 9,000 teachers. That means around 4,000 teachers not in SDEA but enjoying their local education associations’ representation in collective bargaining. If we can extrapolate $172 from West Virginia to South Dakota, we can estimate around $690,000 in free collective bargaining services rendered for non-union teachers in South Dakota.

That’s the free ride that IM 23 advocates are talking about. If you’re getting services from a union, you ought to pay for them. Funny—anti-union conservatives accuse Bernie Sanders supporters of wanting free stuff.

28 Responses to “Right-to-Work” Provides $172 in Free Services to Non-Union Workers at Union Expense

  1. Darin Larson

    That is a winning argument in my opinion. It is an unconstitutional taking for the state to say the union has to represent people who don’t pay any dues. Let’s roll back these false “right to work” state laws and give workers a chance to have some bargaining power with big business.

  2. Darin Larson

    The undermining of unions is one of the reasons that corporate profits have done well over the last 20 years but wages have been stagnant.

  3. What will photo op Thune say about this.

  4. What was the farm bill subsidies. republicans took those now its crop insurance.

  5. mike from iowa

    What does socialism think about Bernie paying $600000 for a third home?

    And wingnuts call union members and libs takers.

  6. Darin Larson

    mike, to be fair to Bernie, I understand his wife inherited a “summer home” in Massachusetts which they have sold or are selling which provided the funds for this home in Vermont. They also have a home in DC, but I wouldn’t want to live in DC and I would rather my congress person not live full time in DC.

    I think Bernie’s net worth is about $750,000. His wife is worth more than he is and she had a career which probably paid better than his.

    I don’t think it undermines his message that the rich need to pay their fair share. His political opponents are using it as a hit piece.

    Warren Buffet is one of the richest men in the world and he says that his taxes are too low. I don’t think you have to be a pauper to say that the rich have benefited far more than the middle class in the last 20 years and we can improve federal policies that perpetuate this.

  7. Darrell Reifenrath

    In reality SD teachers do not have a union and have no real collective bargaining. A school board can impose any contract they desire and teachers have no recourse. I lived in a state where we fought long and hard for legally recognized bargaining. Got it in 1974 after a lot of hard work, including going to the state capitol early in the morning with signs and blocking the doors. It made a big difference in equitable salaries, job security, and retirement benefits. Can’t see this happening in SD where too many teachers are complacent. Dont’ know for sure if it is true, but there is a meme going around saying only 50% of teachers are registered to vote. Would like some facts on this.. I do know that as a county chair we have not had a single teacher come to any of our meetings or participate in any other political activities.

  8. Don Coyote

    Unions are not required to act as exclusive bargaining representatives. This is voluntary on the union’s part. The Supreme Court has ruled that unions are free to negotiate “members only” contracts. In Retail Clerks v. Dry Lion Goods – 1962, the SCOTUS held that “‘Members only’ contracts have long been recognized.” The “free rider” problem is one of the unions own making and can be solved by not claiming exclusive representative status.

  9. The whole senate is a union look at their bargaining rightts.Hagen put one term in a senate she will get about 17grand a year for life starting at 62.How much do you think photo op Thune will get for his time, doing nothing in the senate

  10. Darrell Reifenrath

    The “free rider” clause could give a union busting employer the power to pay non union workers more that the union members negotiated. How did unions cause this?

  11. Darin Larson

    Don Coyote, you are speaking of the strategy of “divide and conquer.” If the unions aren’t the exclusive representative of the workers, then you undermine the unions’ bargaining position. You are back to square one with ownership holding all the cards. Once the union has been certified as having enough of the workers wanting to unionize, they have to be regarded as the exclusive representative of the workers or the whole point of a union is undermined. Obviously you know this.

  12. owen reitzel

    Darrell brings up some good points. I believe that there are teachers who have become complacent. As far as how many aren’t registered, I couldn’t tell you. I’d hope it wouldn’t be 50%.

    Just as bad is that some of them vote against there own good. They’ll vote for people who would vote against their interests like the bill that increased teacher pay last year. Hard to figure out.

  13. Darin Larson

    I was shocked to find out how few SDEA members there are at a local school here.

  14. owen reitzel

    And that’s sad Darin. My wife has been a member of SDEA for a long time and has always paid dues. Even when things were tough financially she kept paying because it’s the right thing to do.
    Very sad to see other teachers who don’t pay to get rewarded in negotiations.
    While I understand why they don’t pay dues, I certainly don’t agree with it.

    Even worse is that if a non-member is fired the SDEA still has to help that member.

  15. Darin Larson

    Owen, I hope that more teachers use some of their pay increase to become a part of SDEA. That is their voice in Pierre. If they had a more united and well-funded organization, maybe they wouldn’t have to wait until there is a public education crisis to get anywhere on school funding and teacher pay. Without most teachers in the boat paddling together, it is really hard to go up stream.

  16. Unions are dying. They no longer serve a purpose in the global economy. Every teacher should negotiate their own contract. Or take it or leave it what the school is willing to pay, just like any other job. You don’t like the wages, get another job. There’s certainly no shortage of demand for workforce around here from that I’m told. If you can’t find demand for your skills then maybe your skills just aren’t up to snuff. So sayeth grudznick.

  17. W R Old Guy

    The union representing the support staff at Rapid City schools was decertified because the union membership had dropped too low for the union to continue. The school district decertified the union and will only negotiate with a recognized barging unit so the support staff had a small raise imposed on them. In addition they now have to fight any unfair action or dismissal on their own.

    You get what you pay for.

  18. Indeed, fellow west river old guy. Indeed. And the market will sort itself out.

  19. Darin Larson

    Grudznick, there is no shortage of demand for workforce as you say. Thus, they are leaving for other states with better pay, better priorities and more powerful unions. If the SDEA was stronger and had more influence, maybe we wouldn’t be losing teachers to other states and other industries in such high numbers.

    South Dakota has been paying potatoes, Grudznick. Teachers see that they can get gravy on their taters in other states or in other jobs if they work elsewhere. If the SDEA was stronger, they could have negotiated for some gravy on their taters too.

  20. Indeed, Mr. Larson. Perhaps I did not make myself clear enough for you.

    There is a large demand for workforce. That is why people are all out frothing about trying to develop workforce. We have a tremendously low unemployment rate. All the employable people are probably employed and the unemployable ones are just that…unemployable.

    Hence, we need workforce. I think you and I are on the same page, sir. The good teachers should get paid more. Which is more than the average teachers. More gravy to the good teachers, and the excellent ones get fresh sausage and pepper in their gravy.

  21. I hope every voter in SD District #17 read this fine article.

  22. Darin, that’s an important connection to make between corporate profits, wage stagnation, and weakening of labor rights.

  23. Help me out, Don: California law requires union contracts to cover non-union workers, and the 1977 Supreme Court “upheld mandatory fees for non-union members as constitutional. The court said they were justified by the state’s interest in maintaining labor peace and eliminating ‘free riders’ who gain benefits without paying their ‘fair share.'”


    Please help me square that example with your statement.

  24. WR, who picks the bargaining unit?

  25. mike from iowa

    Throughout the years a legal principle has been developed by the National Labor Relations Board called “the duty of fair representation” (DFR). This legal principle quite simply states that a union must represent all workers equally and without prejudice. A union cannot refuse to represent or improperly represent a worker due to the worker’s age, race, creed, nationality, sex, religion, political beliefs, union status or personality. If a union fails to represent a worker due to prejudice, or hostility, the union can be charged.

  26. W R Old Guy

    Cory, A union can attempt to “organize” the workers. An election is held if it appears that enough workers want union representation. The company must recognize the union as the bargaining unit if the majority of the workers vote to join the union.

    The workers represented by the union can hold a vote to leave the union thus removing it as the bargaining unit. They can also vote to go with a different union if they are dissatisfied with their current union.

    Normally there is only one union per employee classification recognized as the bargaining unit. There can be multiple unions in one company representing different trades (plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.) Each is the recognized bargaining unit for the particular trade.

  27. So WR, if the RC teachers union is decertified, all the workers get together and vote to select a bargaining unit? If that’s the case, do any non-union teachers bother to show up for that selection?

  28. W R Old Guy

    Cory, The union was the one that decided to stop representing the support staff because it was down to around 30% of the staff that were eligible to join. I do not think the School Board can decertify a union as the bargaining unit unless the union says they no longer represent the workers. In this case it was not really financially possible for the union to continue and represent both union and non union members.

    I do not know if a group of employees can form their own union. I’m sure there are a number of laws that regulate the formation of a union and it’s probably expensive to start one from scratch.