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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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