Freeload: to get or ask for things from people without paying for them.
Unions often refer to the term freeloader in their opposition to Right-to-work. Their argument is that if Right-to-work passes the unions will be required to represent non-union members. Unions claim that it is unfair to force dues-paying members to cover the costs of representing non-members.
We agree. No union should be forced to represent non-members.
Fortunately, unions have a choice in who they represent.
It is likely that if you pulled up a union contract in Missouri you would find language similar to the following:
The Employer recognizes the Union as the collective bargaining agent for all of his Employees, at the Aurora Foods West Seneca facility production, quality assurance, shipping, packing, maintenance and sanitation, including regular part-time Employees, but excluding store clerks, office and clerical Employees, route salesmen, drivers and supervisors.
The above is in Section 1 of a union contract with Aurora Foods. It makes the union the collective bargaining agent for ALL employees.
Are unions required to write contracts that include all employees? No.
James Sherk, senior policy analyst in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation, agrees:
Federal law does not obligate unions to represent non-members. The National Labor Relations Act allows unions to sign “members’ only” contracts that apply only to dues-paying members. This is legally uncontroversial. In 1938, the Supreme Court expressly upheld union’s ability to negotiate only on behalf of members.
In forced unionism states like Missouri, if a union can gain the support of 51% of the employees it can force all the employees to pay an agency fee. From a union’s perspective why not write the contract to be the exclusive bargaining agent for all employees and force all employees to pay into the union coffers. It’s an easy way to increase “profits” of the union.
So how does Right-to-work create freeloaders? It doesn’t.
Right-to-work gives each worker the choice to pay dues/fees to a union. It is the union who chooses to contract with the employer to be the exclusive bargaining agent for all employees or members-only. This choice is completely up to the union.
Even if HB 116 went into effect today, all current agreements would be grandfathered. This means the choice of workers to pay into a union only applies after the next union/employer contract is signed. Every union will have the choice of who is represented before Right-to-work is fully implemented, eliminating the possibility of “freeloaders”.
Unions currently have the freedom to choose who they represent and this freedom is exercised in the contracts they draft. They will maintain this freedom if Right-to-work becomes law. This freedom does not change.
What does change is that workers also acquire the freedom to join and pay into the union, if they choose.
If a union does not choose to represent “freeloaders” then they should draft their contracts accordingly. The freedom of the union to make this choice remains unchanged by the passage of Right-to-work.