Right-to-work law would help business, workers, unions - Albuquerque Journal

Right-to-work law would help business, workers, unions

Do you understand your rights in the workplace? Last week, New Mexico celebrated National Employee Freedom Week, a nationwide effort to help familiarize employees with their workplace freedoms, particularly their rights when it comes to unions.

Whether you love your union or you’re unsatisfied with your current representation, it is important for everyone to know that they have rights, as well as to understand how to exercise these rights if the need arises.

Although many labor unions were created with a noble purpose, over the last few decades some unions have done less to protect their members and more to enrich themselves. Unions increasingly spend less time bargaining and fall victim to increasing amounts of corruption. Many unions are spending more and more time – and worker dues – lobbying for political causes that their members may disagree with. For many New Mexicans, it is getting increasingly difficult to justify the often-significant costs of union membership.

If you feel this way, you’re not alone. The decreasing popularity of labor unions is clearly apparent in the numbers – over the last 40 years, union membership has been drastically shrinking. In New Mexico, only 6.2 percent of workers were members of a labor union as of 2015. Almost half of these remaining union members are not even in the private sector, but rather are members of public-sector unions for government employees.

These negative trends are reflected in the U.S. Hispanic community: only 9.4 percent of Hispanics are union members, the lowest representation out of all ethnic groups.

Hispanics understand just as well as everybody else that many unions are simply no longer providing cost-effective, valuable services. For the Hispanic community, the availability of bilingual services is crucial. Yet despite a stated effort by labor unions to increase Hispanic membership, many unions are failing to take such simple steps as providing translators for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) members. This shows a lack of engagement with a community these unions purport to help.

All Americans deserve better than that. For those unsatisfied with your current union representation, know that you aren’t necessarily stuck with it.

National Employee Freedom Week aims to educate all union members of their rights in the workplace. In New Mexico, a shocking 27.5 percent of union households answered that they were not aware that they could opt out of union membership without losing their job or facing a penalty. This is unacceptable and indicative of labor unions’ attempts to intimidate their members into membership.

However, the biggest single change that can help worker freedom is to encourage New Mexico to implement a right-to-work law.

Right-to-work laws guarantee that no person can be penalized or compelled as a condition of employment to join a labor union. Right now in New Mexico, opting out means you must still pay the percentage of union dues that go toward the union’s bargaining; Right to work would free you from all dues. Tellingly, these laws are supported by 71 percent of all Americans and by 76 percent of union members.

Right-to-work laws hold unions accountable, encouraging them to work hard to represent the interests of their members. They benefit employees, businesses and even unions themselves. Studies show that right-to-work states have higher levels of economic growth, attract more new businesses and increased job and wage growth, too. Nationally, the top states for new manufacturing jobs are right-to-work states.

Hispanics have a rich history of valuing and seeking out work, but they should also have the freedom to decide whether a union will help them achieve that goal. For that freedom, now is the time to demand that New Mexico be the nation’s next right-to-work state.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Right-to-work law would help business, workers, unions

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