Right To Work Versus Union Employment
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During the primitive communal period, labor and its products were a common property among the native villagers. The system of collective labor and production is the shared labor input and equal distribution of production output.
In the 18th century, the emergence of the proletariat (working class) in Europe was brought about by the elitists and the capitalists that created business empires and the monopoly of a structured society. This is illustrated by the wealth distribution triangles, wherein society is represented in such a way that the elite are on top, the bourgeoisie (middle rich) in the middle and the working class below, inversely proportional to their population. The restructuring of the triangulated society have emerged Karl Marx’s economic theories of “Das Kapital” and has greatly influenced the working class through several ‘industrial revolutions’ that recoiled over Europe and Americas (Engels, F., 1967).
Over the years, the working class emerged from various skills which represented a large number of people with the majority group among private and public work places. The private work place consist the industries and the public work place is the governmental institutions and state-owned corporations.
Today, private and public enterprises recognize the institutional development framework with the norm of equal labor opportunities adherent to fundamental labor laws that uphold right-to-work policies and respect to multi-racial-cultural working environment (United States Congress, 1986).
The legacy of the working class is now at the helm of developing societies and the transformation of governments into being people-oriented in its public administration. One of the government’s accountabilities for administering the public have specifically employed its police functions and disaster response by including fire personnel. This particular function incurs the government with an exigent budgeting to which the allocation contributes substantial expenditures.
As government expenditures increase, equated by budgetary requirements in implementing the police and fire functions, the scarcity of budget indicates inferior working conditions and restrictive rendering of benefits to personnel (Putchinski, L.J., 1976).
The right to work has long been a social issue and a dilemma of the labor unions in various work places that are confined to promulgate their civil actions, contemplating on the right to work principle.
This paper will objectively examine the extent and scope of the right to work doctrine as how it affects the activities of employment union, focusing at the workplace of police and fire personnel.
What is the Right-to-work?
According to the declaration of Philadelphia International Labor Conference of 1944,
all human beings, irrespective of race, creed or sex, have the right to pursue both their material well-being and their spiritual development in conditions of freedom and dignity, of economic security and equal opportunity (O’Reilly, A. 2004). This means, that every person has the right to obtain employment, guaranteed by indiscriminate treatment and act freely on its workplace without compelling circumstance of any occupational group.
Therefore, the right to work is a versatile function of every working person to have preferential option, knowledge, desire, belief and choice to affiliate, associate, ally and interact within occupational group relative to employment union, more so, not obliged to pay whatever fees involving the organizational fund raising activities (Cooper, J.W., 2004).
In John W. Cooper (2004) study, “Effects of Right to Work Laws on Employees, Unions and Business”, it claimed that right to work laws encourages high compensation, creates employee privileges, restrain employees’ union establishment, and morally promote employer-employee relationship.
The literature review is a methodology of this paper that will feature some scholarly found studies. This methodology will obtain the purpose of (1) reviewing the Right to Work laws, and (2) fostering of understanding the labor union.
The later part of this paper will discuss the issues and updates relating to police and fire personnel, also to include other government employees on public safety occupation.
Brief Historical Background
The adoption of the Right to Work began from the 1940 to 1950 period when Taft-Harley Act of 1947 was enacted. That Act has greatly inspired the twenty-two states of the United States to follow the principles of the Right to Work. Likewise, the enactment of the Act was a reaction to the Wagner Act of 1935 that strongly advocated unionism in which the US government believed that simultaneous collective bargaining may overpower the newly reconstituted industries that may consequently close shops (Cooper 2004). Thus, the result of closures in workplaces would result tremendous labor recession.
From then on, the Right to work advocacy gave chance to the individual working class a preferential option to whether get involve and participate in employment union and knowing the right to refuse the non-obliging nature of being a union member as well as to be compelled in paying membership pledges.
Empirical Findings on Effects of Right to work
According to Cooper (2004), the effects of the Right to work to unionized employment have decreased about 3-5 percent rates. This refers to the 2004 study on ratio by percentage of membership to employees union that has dramatically depleted from the 22 states of the US. Cooper also cited a similar study conducted by the US Department of Justice and several scholars from state universities in 1987 have already showed a substantial depletion in union membership with approximately 8.2%. Cooper added that the Right to work is generally adopted in Oklahoma that has accounted quantifiable decrease in union membership in the year 2001as compared to strong unionization in the previous years.
However, Cooper implied that it may not be fairly confident to say that Right to work laws have fully affected the whole proportion of union membership within a state or decrease from zero to eight percent. Meaning, the entirety of effect does not only represent Oklahoma and other states in which to claim that the Right to work laws totally achieved union membership depletion.
Cooper concluded that the Right to work laws may be a clamor of the state to persuade the people of the working class to dismember union in their employs. In which case, the Right to work laws apparently encouraged more vulnerability of labor disparity and confusion to the labor force.
Reflecting on the empirical finding of Cooper (2004), the confusion may lead to exploit opportunities of the employer to the fact of protecting their interest. Although the Right to work may have achieved the balance of economic activities from the point of view of emerging industries that generates employment, the working class still prefers unionism as the objective balance of fair labor practices and supports the minimum wage earners. As this is reflective of Cooper’s final statement, to cite, that obviously the State wants to be well positioned for success in the 21st century wherein the Right to Work law is tried to be applied.
The Issue on Labor Equity
The International Labor Organization (ILO) has conducted a study on the Right to decent work of disabled persons to enlighten the discussion of the UN Convention (O’Reilly, 2004). The study focused on the importance of labor equity by assessing the Right to work principles.
Based on the parameters of the study, the Right to work is one of the essences of human rights that is adherent to fulfill the right to live and acquire decency of living in an equitable working environment. With the ILO study parameters, it primarily addresses the government and other members of the society to weigh and size up the Right to work principles to the activities of labor force and related issues of poverty.
According to ILO, there are severe cases of employment discrimination to disabled persons in a workplace, aside from the fact of thin chances of getting employment, which is firstly demanded with physical suitability and competent adaptability to the nature of work (O’Reilly, 2004). As cited from the study (ILO, Equity Issues, 2004), the State should consider (1) sheltered employment, (2) supported employment, and (3) social enterprises. These considerations are key components of employing disabled persons specifically in highly industrialized countries. However, the United States General Accounting Office (US-GAO) questioned the consistency of ILO framework to employing disabled persons within the cited considerations to allegedly no basis of examination. What it appears, the US-GAO may overlooked the fact that the underlying theory to that consideration is to render social benefits to disabled persons by eliminating and supplementing the gaps of inconvenience in order for the disabled persons to develop and master their competencies.
The establishment of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 has influenced more civil actions in the US. The ADA became the platform of advocacies on equitable employment of the disabled persons that refers to employees in private and public (government) employment. The ADA supports the call for benefits on housing, public accommodation, education transport, communication, recreation health services, institutionalization, voting and access to public services (O’Reilly, 2004).
Addressing of the above mentioned social benefits to private and public employers manifests the unifying efforts of the disabled and able workforce to acquiring the Right to work principles encompassing with ILO’s framework for a decent living. Although unionism is not well regarded in this finding, the manifestation of the call for the Right to work and the alliances may in some events be brought to the workplace and become an occupational agenda for organizing a labor union. As a matter of fact, the issue on equity is one in the forefront of continuing discussions in the labor sector specifically in developing countries where disabled persons are considered marginalized and disadvantaged groups of the labor force.
Specific Circumstance in Public Work
This specific circumstance in public work relates a study on the impact of expenditures of the local government in the State of Florida. The study examines the impact of expenditures to employees union specifically composed by the police force (Putchinski, 2005).
As cited from Putchinski (2005), to understand employee union relationship and the function of a local government in processing the budget is a complex task of a public administrator that represent decision making and mediating the burdens in a workforce most especially involving the law enforcement section.
The union of police force in Florida has been organized and established since 1915 through the Fraternal Order of Police that addressed defiance on 12-hour daily routine duties with poor quality workplace. In 2004, the organization has accounted 21,000 union members, including the firemen and public safety personnel such as paramedics and the local security force (Puchinski, 2005).
Accordingly, with regard to the local government of Florida, the employees are bound to the local government statutes that promulgate the forming, joining, participating of employees in an organization that confer cooperatively on wage, work duty and workplace condition, and to include representation to addressing the issue to respective local authorities or jurisdiction and enact a unifying effort towards supporting and helping one another through lawful actions and/or civil disobedience (Public Employees Relations Commission, 2004).
The Public Employees Relations Commission adjudicates the collective bargaining of the union membership. Being predominantly large by number, the police force union of Florida always wins the table battles over bargaining of welfare issues. Putchinski (2005) pointed out that the Police force union is a dominating voice to represent also the organizations of other local government employees in Florida and other cities, like New York.
The police force union has transformed as a super body enable to negotiate multilateral contracts with the local government. These multilateral contracts, as cited from Putchinski (2005), are done by members of the police force union that acts as middlemen to facilitate on contract propositions coming from the constituents as well as other proponents.
With a situation of unionized local government of Florida, as being predominantly composing a large number of police force and employees union, the public administrative function may be overpowered and overruled. Another effect being considered is the financial plan of the local government that may from time to time be modified by over bargaining on welfare and benefit issues, as the local government is a captive government entity at the expense of the union.
The extensive study concluded that soon the local government would be dealing with larger expenditures firstly at the baseline of the growing Florida’s population of about 16 million and, secondly, on increasing numbers of employees unions, aside from the police force’s (Putchinski, 2005).
Opposing Legislative Views on the Right to work
The US Congress has passed and enacted House Bill (HB) 391 on December 2003 in order to empower the existing labor laws that adheres the right to work.
At the floor deliberation, Congressmen belonging from the minority oppositions have their strong filibustering to reject HB 391 because it contradicts and confuses the doctrines on fundamental rights to assembly that is corroborating the right to organize employees union in workplaces that are contained with uncertainty and issues of wage disputes (Cooper, J.W., 2004).
This argumentation may be recalled in the opposing views of President Thomas Jefferson who stated: “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical”, and with Martin Luther King’s statement: “in our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, as right to work provides no rights and no works, which purposely to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining” (Cooper, J.W. 2004).
Based on the opposing views of Thomas Jefferson and Martin Luther King, the right to work and the right to unionize are the blazing issue and becoming a dilemma of individual person in a workplace. Having the right to work necessitates the right to be compensated and enjoy the fruit of labor as equaled to rendered work. However, it is with Martin Luther King’s notion that having the right to work is the acquiring of worker’s freedom to redress grievances on issues of labor disparity, and as well to unite efforts with co-workers for a functional change in the working environment specifically on compensation and benefit claims.
The Public Workforce
The public workforce is workers in the government. The government workforce represents a majority number of contractual employees which are called non-organic. These non-organic and contractual personnel are engaged in different categories of skills and expertise. Most of them are acquired through rendering of professional services in categories of being consultants and other are engaged by their employment firms having manpower pooling contract with the government.
Looking at the workforce of the government function in civilian and police affairs, its workforce is solely commissioned by the state by virtue of the civilian function of the government to upholding peace and order in communities and protecting the lives of the civilian populace. Having this mandate, the police power is not only in peacekeeping but in responding to both natural and man-made disasters wherein the fire personnel has been integrated to fully address the preservation of life and property of the citizenry (US Department of Homeland Security, 2003).
Issues in the Police and Fire Employment
As the police force and fire personnel execute their mandate in peacekeeping, public safety and disaster response, their capabilities are confronted with much challenging employment-related issues.
Cited from the previous report of the National Right To Work Committee (NRTWC), coalition of employees and employers, the Public Safety Employer-Employee Cooperation Act of 2007 is anti-federalist, anti-worker and anti-taxpayer (NRTWC, 2007).
According to NRTWC, the passing of the Act, known as House bill of Representatives (HR) 980, has been rejected in 26 states upon consultation process. To further cite the reasons behind the rejection, HR 980 monopolize the bargaining by way it took away the individual bargaining rights which may cause disarray of union’s organizational system, displacement of volunteer firefighters and public safety personnel, and may lead to potential happening of strikes (NRTWC, 2007). In this case, the unions of police, firefighters and public safety personnel within the 26 states were pre-emptive of their organizations to act on civil disobedience considering the constituents that will be affected when they go strike.
It may be deducted upon the positioning of the HR 980 as a scheme of the so-called union busting. However, the scheme did not push through to the ever conscious understanding of the HR 980. Looking at the scheme of the HR 980 would have caused trouble at the bottom-line of service to the community of the police, firefighters and public safety personnel. Because, at the time HR 980 is enacted, it would deplete the union membership but could consequently entice more civil actions and impede the peacekeeping activities.
A similar case of union busting in the public workforce also happened in New Zealand. It reported that restructuring the New Zealand Firefighters brought about the dispute since the 1990’s (Case Study, 2001).
The Case Study (2001) found out that there were allied forces that came up the reviewing and reducing the rank-and-file of the New Zealand Firefighters. In other words, the restructuring called for work displacement of public workforce and not merely a streamlining of workforce over service performance.
The allied forces were collaborated by the influential New Zealand Business Roundtable (composing of the businessmen), the government itself and the insurance partners (Case Study, 2001). Citing from the Case Study (2001), there was even a compromised negotiation with the Fire Service Chief Executive’s appointment if the Firefighter’s fund be reduced from $72-M to $20-M which could be done by trimming down the labor and equipment cost.
The organizational restructuring further proposed the privatization of Firefighter service and would base on per-pay-service. It may be perceived on that proposal; the government’s public administration liabilities over the Firefighter organization would be freed from levy of service compensation as based on work tenure and rendered service of retiring personnel. It was the benefit itself, arising from compensation benefits, that would be lost from the part of the Firefighters.
The new breed of skilled Firefighters in New Zealand has been also tried to be dismissed in 1998, of which an altercation with the administration have alarmed the national government and some members of the parliament to conduct an inquiry. The issues tackled from the inquiry found out immense mismanagement and malversing of funds that amassed the coffer of the local government (Case Study, 2001; in Rasmusen and McIntosh, 1999).
In 1999, the New Zealand’s Court of Appeal ordered the cancellation of the restructuring plan and earmarked $8 million for wage increase. However, in the year 2001, the administration failed to negotiate with Firefighters to receive 8 percent salary increased over doubled work loads of about 50 percent increase. Obviously, the Firefighters see the salary increase as a superficial negotiation to settle the dispute in which almost 90 percent of the Firefighter’s workforce continuously resent on the issue (Case Study, 2001).
The case of the New Zealand Firefighters may be viewed as a lingering power struggle on welfare issues. The reports on the case study were all on table negotiations by the individual firefighters and concerned proponents; neither had it mentioned unionism among their ranks. Thus, it may be said that the Firefighters had it their way to organize themselves as one entity-pressure group; they could have had the civil power to pursue their agonies into objective response and impact to the issues.
The Pursuit of Civil Power
As discussed from the earlier part of this paper, the Right to work principles has been opposed by constructive materialism from the perspectives of the labor unions. The Right to work may have not been an individual preference to measure the conflict of issues within the workplace and the workforce itself that represent the civil society.
The pursuit of civil power is in itself the search for the Right to work that essentially relates the civil rights of human in undertaking and interacting in the community to live by.
The public workforce may have achieved to address the issues concerning welfare as they progressively influence the policy legislation and enactment of laws on labor dispute settlement, and along this achievement could again measure the opposing views on the Right to work versus unionism.
On January 30th 2008, the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) has highly praised the Congress by restoring collective bargaining and the appeal rights on the proposed National Security Personnel System (NSPS). As a background, as cited from AFGE (2008), the NSPS have been held by the US Department of Defense (US-DOD) by a fallacy concerning issues on counter-terrorism that misinformed the Congress to intently preserve collective bargaining and ensuring of fair appeals on procedural suspension and termination of government rank-and-file personnel. It was clear that the US-DOD would want to shred the employee’s rights for fair legal procedures and representation to collective bargaining of employees union they belong (Victorian, M., 2008).
The restoration of the collective bargaining and the appeal rights on the NSPS have provided the Section 326, cited as, “Federal employees in all agencies would finally have the opportunity to appeal contracting out decisions to the US Government Accountability Office (US-GAO), a right contractors have long enjoyed” (Victorian, M., 2008).
Through this development, we may quote AFGE National President John Gage, who was overwhelmed by the congressional approval, as he stated that; “we, along with our partner unions in the Defense Workers Coalition, have been fighting for four long years to thwart this underhanded attack on fundamental rights and principles that are crucial to our democracy. It is in the best interest of the US-DOD civilian workers, military service members, and the American public that the NSPS be overturned” (Victorian, M., 2008). The NSPS achievement enjoined the public workforce as a legislated precedent on the employment security tenure and welfare benefits.
Meanwhile, cited from the most recent article of the National Right To Work’ (NRTWC) newsletter dated February 2008, the 2.2 million members of NRTWC have pledged to oppose the Section 2123 of the current U.S. Senate version of Police and Fire Monopoly-Bargaining Bill known as H.R.980 to which accordingly imposing union exclusive representation (monopoly bargaining) over state and local police, firefighters, and other public-safety employees nationwide (NRTWC, 2008).
This development is therefore perceived as a continuing legislative battle in collective bargaining and the rights of every individual workforce to which the labor unions exerts all efforts to position the civil power.
The opposing views on understanding the Right to work and labor unionism collide at the forefront of vital issues on labor unrest. What is then significant is the interpellation of the principles that is set upon the understanding that Right to work is a preference of individual as to whether join a labor union or not, and be compelled to support materially and financially the cause of the labor organization. The “versus” norm that underlies the difference to labor unionism might be attuned to the objectives of unionism.
In essence, the right to work from the point of view of personal preference is a marking line to understand oneself within a workplace and being a member of a society. The knowledge that is attributed within self-understanding of right to work may somehow be misled by the factual circumstance affecting ones choice, condition, status, authority and qualification in a workplace setting.
The labor unionism, as this paper fosters the purpose of understanding, is a social contract of the working class as protractedly waging the plight from the historical development of society and continuously pursues the interest of just and dignified labor.
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