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Home » Officer Columns » Secretary-Treasurer » Right to Work for Less

Right to Work for Less

  -  former AFM International Secretary-Treasurer

As I review the benefits we provide our members I am reminded that nonmembers in certain states are enjoying the same benefits due to the right to work for less. A collective agreement that provides health benefits, pension, and a living wage all are received by the freeloading nonmembers who refuse to pay their fair share. Your stand partner—a nonmember—is laughing at you under his breath because he is not paying work dues.

I recall at the Nugget in Sparks, Nevada, Local 368 (Reno, NV) had a collective agreement with a health plan and one-by-one the groups dropped out of their union membership thumbing their noses at the union. I personally visited each and every musician on the job and advised them that I was serving notice to the management that I was going to drop the collective agreement, in a timely manner, in that we could no longer afford to service the agreement for the lack of work dues.

The response was everything from “you can’t do that” to “so what, they will still give us the same benefits.” Would anyone be surprised that, when the next quarter rolled around, the musicians were put on independent contractor status and their health plan discontinued? One by one, I watched as these fine players were given increased hours at no increased pay, replaced at will by younger players. Yes, they showed the union.

I researched the archives of the International Musician and found a very intellectual article submitted by the International Association of Machinists. They gave us permission to excerpt parts, in particular commentary by a priest, a rabbi, and a minister on the morality of the right to work in the US. Here it is:

For almost as long as working men and women have joined together in unions to improve their conditions, our state legislatures and our federal Congress have been besieged with proposals to put prohibition on union security agreements voluntarily negotiated between union members and their employers.

A meeting of minds in 1946 published a declaration called “Pattern for Economic Justice.” While not an encyclical, it is written by learned interdenominational fellows. While the eight points carry explanatory notes for each point and a policy statement from the respective faiths this column will not go to those lengths. 

The moral law must govern economic life.

The material resources of life are entrusted to man by God for the benefits of all.

The moral purpose of economics builds social justice.

The profit motive must be subordinate to the moral law.

The common good necessitates the organization of man into free associations of his own choosing.

Organized cooperation of the functional economic groups among themselves and with the government must be substituted for the rule of competition.

It is the duty of the state to interfere in economic life when necessary to protect the rights of individuals and groups, to aid in the advance of the general economic welfare.

International economic life is likewise subject to the moral law.

In the Jewish religious traditions, labor and the laborer are invested with dignity and blessedness. There is a saying in the Talmud, “Great is work, for it honors him who performs it!”

 While the term “right to work” denotes a warm fuzzy feeling to those who don’t know better, it is a complete and utter misnomer and a fraud of the first order. It gets no one a job, and in fact, conceals the true purpose of restricting union security arrangements bargained collectively between workers and employers.

The position of the Catholic Church on closed shops is for the most part positive, although not speaking specifically. The Church is more explicit on the right to work as it says the laws are immoral to the Catholic social teaching to quote “all good men and women, Protestants, Jews, and Catholics should seek by every just means to get such right to work laws repealed and should oppose them whenever they are proposed.”

For those musicians who are freeloading it means conflict in the ranks as they exploit their brothers and sisters who are paying work dues to support bargaining and grievance procedures, and it takes away their opportunity to share in the decisions affecting their jobs and family welfare.

Right to work laws do not create jobs, they only victimize the worker and make the AFM less effective. It’s time for members of units in right to work states to stand up to the freeloaders and say “Shame on you! It’s time for you to join the AFM. The AFM has been feeding you for free; it’s time you paid something for the privilege.”