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Guest MINDSETTER™ Mike Riley: Right-to-Work is Right for Rhode Island

Thursday, December 13, 2012


It strikes me as fundamentally American that an individual should have the choice to either affiliate with a union and pay dues or to opt out of a union system. Right to work laws prevent unions from imposing mandatory fees, thus giving employees the right to work without paying union dues. All other collective bargaining activities and negotiations remain unaffected.

I am aware that union leaders here and across the nation absolutely hate this idea. They hate it because it is likely to cause a loss of power and influence relative to what exists for union heads today. I want to be clear however that “collective bargaining “is also a right. And that collective bargaining has worked well for all parties involved in many different industries throughout history. Unions definitely have a place in today’s society and it would be wrong to” bust” them.

On the other hand, unions have not been a positive force in our State and Local Government and taxpayers have not benefited from this relationship. I would argue that prospective teachers, for example, should absolutely have the right to become public school teachers without being forced to join a union or pay dues.

The whole issue boils down to this. It’s hard to argue that a worker should have to pay into a union for representation that they simply do not want. The worker, in my opinion, has the right to decide how to spend or save their own hard earned wages.

Harvard economics Professor Robert Barro said it best recently in his op-ed for the Wall Street Journal “From the standpoint of civil liberties the individual right to work—without being forced to join a union or pay dues—has a much better claim than collective bargaining.”

I would therefore encourage right –to-work legislation here in Rhode Island. Obviously given the current makeup of the State House this is extremely unlikely to happen. That should not stop those who believe in individual rights and Free Enterprise from making an effort.

Mike Riley was the Republican candidate for Congress in Rhode Island's 2nd District in 2012.


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Good article. The right to choose to join or not join a union should remain with the individual.

If a union wants members, let it sell itself on the value it provides, not force membership on people who want a job.

Comment #1 by Art West on 2012 12 13

Mr. Riley, this is Rhode Island! Our General ASSembly will pass a "Right to NOT Work" bill before we'll ever see a Right to Work bill.

Comment #2 by John Ward on 2012 12 13

Mike who?

Comment #3 by Malachi Constant on 2012 12 13

Rhode Island desperately needs to initiate comprehensive and fundamental public policy reform if it hopes to regain its competitive status. One of the furthest-reaching and simplest reforms that would not cost the state a dime would be to pass Right-To-Work legislation.
With Right-To-Work comes significant and demonstrable economic benefits — a shot in the arm that the Ocean State economy badly needs — but also the restoration of what is a fundamental civil right of workers … freedom of association.
By nearly every measure shown in our Report Card on Rhode Island Competitiveness, the Ocean State is not competitive nationally and within New England. However, passing RTW legislation would allow the state the chance to be immediately competitive and worthy of a strong look by businesses and investors looking at the northeast.
The positive impact of worker choice in other states has been clearly demonstrated, and 24 states now see the benefit of worker freedom to their economies. For Rhode Island, the benefits and the urgency is clear: now is the time to do the ‘right’ thing.

Comment #4 by Gov- stench on 2012 12 13


As a hedge fund millionaire, it's funny to hear that think unions are greedy. Especially after your epic breakdown after losing the congressional election where you bash Rhode Islanders for not voting for "great Americans like you," who gave up "$800,000 of [your] kid's money" to run for office and bust unions.

You know what I never had?

A daddy with $800,000 to give me.

I just got up every day and worked. And I worked hard. Since I was 11. I didn't get pudgy at some fancy banker job that paid me millions. I bagged groceries. I put shingles on roofs. I busted my balls. I became a union man. But I did it the right way. Hard. Honest. Work.

And you just want to take all of that away. Why? So that you can squirrel a few more million into your kid's fat bank account.

Some of us don't have the luxury, Mike.

Remember whose toes you're stepping on when you come to sock it to the middle class.

Because this country was built on hard work. It was never built on sticking your hand in the next guy's pocket. The American dream is a hard work dream. It's not bankers in pinstripes.

When you go after the middle class, you kill that dream.

And you create more welfare miscreants.

Because you take away all of the decent respectable jobs that pay a damn.

Comment #5 by TheRhodeIsland WorkingMan on 2012 12 13

wow you got almost everything wrong....did you just make up stuff?..is this dan yorke?

Comment #6 by michael riley on 2012 12 13

I'm not Dan Yorke. And I didn't make this stuff up:


Comment #7 by TheRhodeIsland WorkingMan on 2012 12 13

1)you didnt have " A daddy with $800,000 to give me."-- me neither

2)" it's funny to hear that think unions are greedy".---i'm having trouble finding where i said that

3)"Because this country was built on hard work. It was never built on sticking your hand in the next guy's pocket."--untrue and sad that you believe that..i believe in hard work

4)"you create more welfare miscreants".....--i never made those comments you did

Comment #8 by michael riley on 2012 12 13

1) I posted the video. The $800,000 figure was about your children, from your own mouth.

2) http://www.topix.com/forum/health/TUQRKTMIAJ23A9545.

3) Did you ever think that this quote from your facebook page might apply to banks?
...when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect you against them, but protect them against you - when you see corruption being rewarded and honest becoming a self-sacrifice - you may know that your society is doomed.

4) That's right. I did. Not working and being on the government dole destroys people.

You might win more working middle class people over if you didn't attack us with "right to work" and other nonsense that depresses our wages, destroys our jobs, and does nothing but funnel money to the top.

Sometimes I think the Democrats and Republicans in this state have something in common.

They each want about a hundred millionaires and billionaires lording over a million people on foodstamps and Medicaid.

They each hate the middle class.

Comment #9 by TheRhodeIsland WorkingMan on 2012 12 13

Working Man,

Except for those on the dole, we all work hard. Nobody is trying to take away what you've accomplished in your life through your own choices and hard work. You really have no right to tear down somebody else's own life choices and money-making efforts. You chose one work path; somebody else chose another.

You're high on emotion, but not focused on what the article says, or on what right to work enables. It just allows someone who wants a job, but not union membership, to opt out. That's freedom and personal choice, and what the country was founded on.

Comment #10 by Art West on 2012 12 13


You don't understand. Either a job's a union job, or it's not a union job. As soon as it's optional, who's going to pay union rates anymore? Nobody. Sure it drives prices down. But it drives working people right out of the job. I'm not a computer guy. I'm not a money trader. I make real things you can touch in real life. And I build them right here in the United States of America.

And it seems to me that nobody values that any more. Republican or Democrat.

Republicans want to pay Americans the same wages they pay the Chinese. And then they don't want millionaires to pay 3% more in taxes. And then they try to bust the union, the one thing that lets me own my small ranch and keep my wife and kids fed and safe. And then people with millions of dollars have the gall to call us greedy.

Democrats want to tax us to death to make sure people who don't work have better health care than I do and can afford to go to Whole Foods on North Main with food stamps (I've seen it). Unemployment even comes with a tuition waiver. There's no tuition waiver for the employed, though.

The middle class gets lost in the middle. We lose. We pay more taxes as a percentage than the rich. I can't make capital gains. I'm a laborer. And we pay those taxes so free loaders can lounge around and do nothing.

And I'm supposed to worry about some kid's $800,000? If I ever had $800,000 I'd be living in a cabin in New Hampshire, chopping my own firewood, and telling my son he doesn't have to take out student loans.

But I don't.

And it's really out of touch to talk about your $800,000, then tell me I make to much.

Comment #11 by TheRhodeIsland WorkingMan on 2012 12 13

Working Man,

I believe in the free market. In a robust economy, employers have to compete for good workers.

But I couldn't agree more with you on high taxes that essentially take from you and me, and give to somebody else who does nothing to work for the handouts.

For right to work, you say, "As soon as it's optional, who's going to pay union rates anymore?"

Good question. If the unions cannot convince workers of the value they offer, and to pay dues for that value, then they certainly have no right to simply force someone to join.

Comment #12 by Art West on 2012 12 14

No, Art. I wasn't asking who was going to pay union dues. I was asking who was going to pay union wages. Once you flood the market with right-to-work, people will only hire non-union workers. And they won't be professionals with 30 years experience. It'll be the cheapest guy off the street. Which is where I'll be living.

That's what you republicans don't get. And it's why I'm not one of you. I need my piece too. The free market should include the freedom to organize. Employers can mandate that you pay into healthcare or retirement or take drug tests. But unions you don't want unions to mandate dues? Why? Because you want to bust unions.

It's not about freedom. Because I'll bet dollars to donuts you don't care about employee freedom. If an employee has to pee in a cup, or has to pay into workman's comp, or gets his mail monitored, or gets fired for what he says online, or gets fired because he's old and you can get a 20 year old cheaper, you probably think that's fine.

But if he has to pay union dues it's some violation of freedom?

That's not what this is about. This is about busting us down to minimum wage, or close to it. If you worked these sorts of jobs you'd understand. And what kind of freedom is not being able to afford your mortgage?

So you can agree with me where I bash the Democrats. But you Republicans are no better. You don't care about my wage or my family. You just care about your ideals. You have ideals about some weird freedom that makes all of us who aren't bankers and white collar yuppies obsolete trash. And Democrats have some weird ideas about fairness that don't care about my wage or family, only special identity groups that they decide are oppressed.

Neither of you care of an honest working blue collar man anymore.

The Republican wants to bust my union and make me broke.
The Democrat is happy to let him do it in exchange for more welfare benefits.
I lose.

And until one party starts giving a damn, I say they both stink.

Comment #13 by TheRhodeIsland WorkingMan on 2012 12 14

I especially love how places are described as a "Union Shop". The union doesn't own the building. The business owner does. The union doesn't pay the utilities, insurance, or wages. The business owner does. It's the business owners shop and how un-american for Unions to dictate and control a business they don't own. Sounds very similar to the Mafia....and how the mafia would extort money from business owners.

Comment #14 by Odd Job on 2012 12 14

Mike, Right-to-Work would be a boon to RI's economy. It would turnaround the reputation we have as one of the most business unfriendly states (no. 49).

But even better would be to push for Voter Iniative. The General Assembly represents itself and bills that would be very popular with voters are not allowed to come up for a vote.

If we had Voter Initiative like Massachusetts and California does the issue of Right-to-Work could be on the ballot. And bet it might just pass.


Comment #15 by James Berling on 2012 12 14

Voter initiative efforts were hot and heavy a few years back....Its always good to get a perspective on what was said then and who turned out to be more prescient.....

Leading Opponents of Voter Initiative Show They are Implacable Foes of the Public Good is the title of the article about 5 articles down the page...after reading this you can certainly see that the foes of voter initiative are no friend to taxpayers...always the same people


therefore we should revive this effort

Comment #16 by michael riley on 2012 12 14

after the last election, you really want to give clueless RI'ers more things to vote on?
They'd vote for every bond and all the liberal crap the Dems could throw out.
Michigan's a disaster but at least they had the sense to vote in all Republicans in their state and now it's turning around slowly.
We're worse off but yet we vote in more Dems and approve more bonds.

Comment #17 by Odd Job on 2012 12 15

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