Right-to-Work means working for lower wages and fewer benefits

Guest Opinion By Hannah Nash
Sunday, February 7, 2021
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Right-to-Work Means “Work for Lower Wages and Fewer Benefits”

When I was a unionized worker for 18 years, my worksite was twice as safe and my wages and benefits were 23% more than a nonunionized workplace in my field. The union was my choice and was optional. Now, I work for that same union because I believe in what unions do for employees. I represent over 1000 workers from Great Falls eastward and each of them has that same choice.

These union workers are the essential front line before, during, and after Covid. They maintained the roads you drove on today, the safe drinking water we all enjoy, the toilets that flushed, the safety of our communities, and dozens of other careers that surround you every day. Every single community in Montana is served by union workers.

Each and every one of those workers in Montana is in their union by choice. HB168, HB251, and SB89 aim to remove that choice entirely, disenfranchising workers and denying them their rights and their freedom to collectively bargain. These bills do not maximize economic freedom; they remove workers’ ability to choose unionization. It removes Montanans’ existing freedoms.

The bill language implies that unionization in Montana is mandatory. That is inaccurate: the Janus vs AFSCME SCOTUS decision removed mandatory unionization. Unions in the State of Montana are compliant with Janus v AFSCME and none are mandatory.

Most provisions of these anti-union bills are already covered and enforced under law, and have been for years now: employees may withdraw in writing, employees do not have to sign up, dues must be authorized by the employee in writing, membership cannot be coerced, and an employee’s right to work is not in any way infringed by membership or non-membership in a union.

Every unionized employee in this State already has these “Right to Work” freedoms: The Freedom to Work, Freedom of Choice, and Voluntary Deductions Protected.

These bills try to solve “problems” that don’t exist in Montana work sites. What they will accomplish is to harmfully impact the tens of thousands of unionized workers who make Montana’s communities their home. The tens of thousands of union workers who voluntarily stay with their union, knowing they could leave at any time.

Right to Work legislation is trying to take money out of union families and funding out of Montana cities and towns. Union jobs are a fundamental part of Montana’s economy and these bills seek to kill Montana jobs.

Contact your local representation to strongly encourage NO votes on HB168, HB251, and SB89 to protect jobs and Montana livelihoods.

Hannah Nash is a Field Representative for AFSCME Montana Council 9. AFSCME represents 54 affiliates across Montana representing public employees including State snow plow drivers and mechanics, police officers, detention officers, nurses, school district employees, university employees, public defenders, librarians, and numerous city and county employees.