Right to Work

Indiana is currently embroiled in the discussion of Right To Work. Right to work is a bill put before the Indiana legislature that would, if passed, make it illegal for employers to require employees to join a union or pay union dues (HB 1468). Currently, if you are hired at an employer that utilizes union labor, you are required to join the union and to pay union dues. These union dues are often deducted from your paycheck automatically.

I've had first hand experience with this scenario. In my teens, I worked as a bagger at a Kroger grocery store. Kroger employees are members of the AFL-CIO. As a condition of my employment, I had to join the union, and union dues were automatically deducted from my paycheck. I only worked part-time, and I was paid minimum wage. My union dues were around $5.00 on each two week check, which means that for one hour every two weeks, I was sending my pay directly to the union. That was a pretty significant portion of my income when I only worked a few hours each week (between 8 and 24 depending on whether school was in session). I never met my union steward, attended a union meeting, or really felt a part of the union. Still, every two weeks an hours pay went to the union. It was frustrating! Still, the union did negotiate our breaks (one paid 15 minute break if you work 4 hours, two if you work six, and two paid 15 minute breaks plus a paid 30 minute lunch if you worked 8 hours). I believe that unions have their place, and that there is definitely a need to unionize. I believe that unions can and do provide benefits to their members. However, I also feel that our nations largest unions are no longer effective.

On the one hand, I can definitely see the argument for eliminating the requirement to join or pay dues to a union. As a teenager, I definitely would have taken the option to keep that money for myself. What I wouldn't have realized then is that, without the union, I might not be making that same hourly wage. My break times might not be paid either, or even exist for that matter. If I didn't pay those dues, I would effectively be free-loading on the union. I would be receiving the benefits of union membership without joining the union.

Attempting to make an argument on whether or not a Right to Work law is good or bad based on states that do or do not have such a law is difficult. There are many more factors at work than just the Right to Work law, such as tax breaks for the employer, or other pro-employer benefits. Those in favor of unions will quickly show statistics that demonstrate states with Right To Work laws have lower wages and high on the job injury cases than states without. Those in favor of Right to Work will talk about how employers specifically seek out states with a Right to Work law when expanding their business.

Growing up in a manufacturing town, I've heard the arguments back and forth. The unions argue for higher wages, better benefits, and better working conditions. The employers argue that the union demands are putting them out of business. The Right to Work bill is clearly an attempt to diminish the power of unions in our state. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I just don't know.


Jade Mason