Right-Wing Media Are Wrong About Worker Contributions For Unions' Political Spending

Right-wing media falsely claimed that workers at organized work places are compelled to pay dues that go toward union political activities and that so-called “right-to-work” legislation in Michigan would give workers a choice about paying for these activities. In fact, workers at unionized work places already can choose whether to pay for political activities of their union.

Right-Wing Media Claim “Right-To-Work” Laws Allow Workers To Opt Out Of Paying For Union Political Spending

Fox News' Steve Doocy: “Right-To-Work” Means You No Longer Have To Pay Union Dues That Go To “Political Causes You Don't Support.” On Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy hyped right-to-work laws, saying these laws will make it so that workers aren't compelled by unions to pay money that go to causes they do not support:

DOOCY: Later on today, the Michigan House of Representatives is going to take up two bills, they were passed by the state senate in Michigan on Thursday. They're right-to-work bills. And what they would do is they would make, effectively, Michigan the 24th right-to-work state in the country, which means you would not have to join a union as a pre-condition of employment. For instance, if you are a teacher, and you don't like the fact that, you know, you got to pay union dues and it goes to political causes that you don't support, going forward, you won't have to, in Michigan. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 12/11/12]

Wall Street Journal: “Right-To-Work” Ends Union's Ability To “Coerce Workers To Join And Pay Dues That They Then Funnel To Politicians Who Protect Union Power.” A Wall Street Journal editorial claimed that if states adopt “right-to-work” laws, unions could not “coerce workers to join and pay dues that they then funnel to politicians who protect union power.” [The Wall Street Journal, 12/10/12]

Fox Business' Charles Payne: “People Want An Opportunity” To “Not To Be Shaken Down For Things They Don't Believe In.” During a segment on Fox's America's Newsroom about Michigan's “right-to-work” law, guest host Gregg Jarrett asked his guest Charles Payne why union membership is dwindling in the U.S. Payne falsely suggested that workers don't get to “make their own mind up” about paying for their union's political activities:

JARRETT: Twenty-five, 30 years ago, unions were roughly 20 percent of the workforce. Now they've dwindled to less than 10 percent.

PAYNE: And they continue to dwindle as people in Michigan have the opportunity to make their own mind up. Listen, you know, unions spent millions, almost maybe $100 million on a presidential election last go-around. There are people in the union who didn't want all their money to go to the Democratic candidates. I mean, listen, this is called democracy. People want an opportunity A, to work, B, not to be shaken down for things they don't believe in. [Fox News, America's Newsroom, 12/11/12]

In Fact, Workers At Organized Work Places Are Not Required To Be Full Union Members

NLRB: Workers That Don't Want Full Union Membership “Pay Only That Share Of Dues Used Directly For Representation” Of Union Contract They Work Under. The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) explains that workers do not have to be full union members, but instead must only pay for the union representation they receive by working at a union shop, regardless of their membership status:

The NLRA allows employers and unions to enter into union-security agreements, which require all employees in a bargaining unit to become union members and begin paying union dues and fees within 30 days of being hired.

Even under a security agreement, employees who object to full union membership may continue as 'core' members and pay only that share of dues used directly for representation, such as collective bargaining and contract administration. Known as objectors, they are no longer full members but are still protected by the union contract. Unions are obligated to tell all covered employees about this option, which was created by a Supreme Court ruling and is known as the Beck right. [National Labor Relations Board, accessed 12/11/12]

Center For American Progress: “Right-To-Work Has Nothing To Do With People Being Forced To Be Union Members.” The Center for American Progress report titled “Right-to-Work 101” explains that “right-to-work” laws simply “allow some workers to receive a free ride” by receiving benefits from a union contract without having to pay for it:

In states where the law exists, “right-to-work” makes it illegal for workers and employers to negotiate a contract requiring everyone who benefits from a union contract to pay their fair share of the costs of administering it. Right-to-work has nothing to do with people being forced to be union members.

Federal law already guarantees that no one can be forced to be a member of a union, or to pay any amount of dues or fees to a political or social cause they don't support. What right-to-work laws do is allow some workers to receive a free ride, getting the advantages of a union contract -- such as higher wages and benefits and protection against arbitrary discipline -- without paying any fee associated with negotiating on these matters.

That's because the union must represent all workers with the same due diligence regardless of whether they join the union or pay it dues or other fees and a union contract must cover all workers, again regardless of their membership in or financial support for the union. In states without right-to-work laws, workers covered by a union contract can refuse union membership and pay a fee covering only the costs of workplace bargaining rather than the full cost of dues. [Center for American Progress Action Fund, 2/2/12]

And These Workers' “Agency Fees” Do Not Pay For Union Political Spending

CWA v. Beck: Unions Cannot Force Non-Members To Pay Dues For Political Action. In the 1988 U.S. Supreme Court case Communications Workers v. Beck, the majority found that the Communications Workers of America (CWA) could not charge non-members in work places they organize fees that paid for political action by the union. [U.S. Supreme Court, CWA v. Beck, 6/29/88]

Locke v. Karass: Non-Union Workers At Organized Work Places Cannot Be Forced To Pay For “Political, Public Relations, Or Lobbying” Activities By Unions. In a 2009 U.S. Supreme Court decision, the majority, echoing past precedent, reaffirmed that non-union members in work places are only to pay a service fee that equaled to the amount collective bargaining services and contract maintenance services cost. [U.S. Supreme Court, Locke v. Karass, 1/21/09]