Monday, March 02, 2015

Building trades and right to work

It's not going to happen, but some people argue that there should be a carve out from right to work legislation for the construction trades. Such an exception would, I am told, be unique to Wisconsin.

The justification would be that unions provide training and need dues in order to provide it. The problem is that this does not seem to be the case. WMC, and other proponents of right to work, have made the claim that employers provide 95% of the training funds spent by trade unions. PolitiFact says this isn't true. I think PolitiFact has it wrong; I know that they are looking at it in the wrong way.

The question is not where the funds "originate." All of the money originates with the employers and, at some point, comes to belong either to the employees or unions. Nor is the question who controls the funds once they leave the employer. It seems to me that we want to know whether the training funds are from general membership dues or whether they are a separately negotiated payment from the employer to the union. Based upon what I know, it is not "mostly false" that this is the case; it is absolutely true.

If that's right, then the reduction in dues need not affect the payments for training. If employers wish to continue paying for training conducted by unions - if, indeed, this is a valuable and critical benefit provided by unions - they can continue to do negotiate such payments. Because right to work would not require unions to train non-members, it is possible that fewer workers would receive this training. But is it likely? If the training provided by unions is, indeed, essential, those workers who receive it will have an advantage in seeking employment, i.e., they will be more valuable to and desired by employers. If that's so, then they will have an incentive to be in the union.

I have not heard that the construction industry has collapsed - or that buildings are falling down - in right to work states like Texas, Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. Perhaps this is why.

Cross posted at Purple Wisconsin

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