I’ve worked in the financial services industry in one capacity or another for approximately 30 years. All in all it’s been a pretty good ride for somebody that doesn’t have a college degree and has pretty much picked up everything through the process of osmosis. During that entire time, I’ve never been fired or asked to leave a job and have never taken a dime of the government’s money in the form of welfare or unemployment benefits. I guess I’ve been pretty lucky in that regard and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that things will remain that way.

I’ve also never been asked to join a union. As matter of fact, if you’re at all familiar with the banking and brokerage industry any talk of even forming one will most likely find you out the door and flat on your ass. One company that I worked for back in the early 80’s even made it mandatory to report any kind of “union talk” to the Human Resources Department and failure to do so would be considered a violation of company policy and you’d be subject to “discipline” up to and including termination.

That certainly doesn’t qualify me as an expert on what I’m about to write about. I just heard about the subject of “right to work” on NPR as I was driving in to work this morning and thought it would be an interesting subject to try and cover.

Basically a “right to work” law states that an employer (usually a private corporation) may hire a worker who refuses to join a union even though the company itself is a “union shop”. We can thank the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947 for that. Before that came along it was mandatory in unionized workplaces for an employee to join the union as a condition of employment. It was also legal to fire an employee who failed to pay union dues or for any other reason that caused them to be dropped from the rank and file. It didn’t matter what the employee did or how they performed on the job. No union membership, no job.

The supporters of right to works laws contend that an individual should not be required to join a union if they don’t want to. They argue that according to the Constitution all people are free to associate with whomever they want and shouldn’t have a union forced down their throat. They also want to limit or do away with collective bargaining on behalf of the workers

The naysayers, or those who support unions, claim just the opposite. They state that right to works laws actually restrict freedom of association and are in favor of collective bargaining. They claim that individuals who are not members of a union are getting a free ride when it comes to benefits negotiated in the bargaining process since they don’t pay membership dues.

Currently there are twenty three states that have right to work laws on the books. Most of them are in the Southeastern portion of the country but are now stretching north. The State of Michigan is currently in a heated debate over whether to pass some form of right to work laws.

Here’s a list of the states that currently have laws in place. Most of them are established under each individual state’s Constitution.

North Carolina
North Dakota
South Carolina
South Dakota

I should also note that if you are employed by the Feds and the job you have is unionized, you have the right to choose whether to join the union or not.

So, where do I stand?

The short answer is I don’t have a leg to stand on. As I said earlier, I’ve never been in one or asked to become a member of a union but if I did I certainly wouldn’t want it to be mandatory or a condition of employment. I guess I’d have to follow the advice of Groucho Marx when he said:

”I would not join any club that would have someone like me for a member”