Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts testified before the House Education and Workforce Committee Wednesday on the value of Right to Work laws (RTW) and how they can protect workers from labor unions and their coercive practices.
“Right to Work is about freedom,” Ricketts said. “It’s about the right to choose.”
Ricketts, a former president of Accutrade (now a subsidiary of TD Ameritrade), noted how in his own business experience a state’s Right to Work law or lack thereof was a crucial factor in determining what states the company should expand to.
“One of the first things we would ask is, ‘What are your Right to Work laws?’ And if they didn’t have any, we would not consider that state for expansion,” said Ricketts. “There is no doubt being a right to work state is a competitive advantage.”
Ricketts cited his state’s unemployment rate of 2.5% — the lowest in the country – as evidence of Right to Work laws creating a business-friendly environment that brings jobs and economic growth to the benefit of the state’s citizens.
“There is no doubt being a right to work state is a competitive advantage”
The hearing, titled “Compulsory Unionization through Grievance Fees: The NLRB’s Assault on Right-to-Work”, focused on an upcoming rule from the National Labor Relations Board that would allow unions to force members to pay fees to represent them in labor disputes with employers, or “grievance fees”. Right to Work laws prohibit unions from forcing members to pay membership dues, so many see compulsory grievance fees – which can often total more than membership fees – as a way for unions to subvert the law.
The Committee Ranking Member, Democrat Bobby Scott of Virginia, noted that the NLRB had not issued a formal rule yet and said the hearing was premature. But this assertion was dismissed by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.).
“We already know what the NLRB will do,” Byrne told the committee. “They’ll do whatever the unions tell them to.”
Ricketts pointed out that in the past both the courts and the NLRB had prohibited labor unions from forcing members to pay grievance fees but that now the NLRB “seems poised to do an about-face on its own precedents going back to 1953.”
“If you’re forcing them to pay grievance fees, you’re in essence forcing them to pay for membership,” said Ricketts.
Walter Hewitt, an employee of United Way in Connecticut and member of the local Office and Professional Employees International Union, testified that even though he and coworkers voted to decertify their local union forced payment of grievance fees (Connecticut has not passed an RTW law) has effectively kept them under the union’s thumb.
“All of my grievances are with the union itself,” Hewitt told the committee.
Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, said that compulsory grievance fees would leave states’ Right to Work laws “on the books, but severely emasculated.”
“At the core of this argument is the fight not between labor and business,” Mix said, “But between labor unions and the workers they claim to represent.”
Gillum Ferguson is Deputy Editor of Opportunity Lives. You can follow him on Twitter @GillumFerguson.