Five Steps to Maintain Unity and Membership under Right to Work

Source: Leah Fried, Labor Notes, February 1, 2017

Number one on the new administration’s anti-union to-do list is “right to work”—or as many prefer to call it, “no rights at work” or “right to work for less.” But whatever you call it, more of us will be faced with new laws that codify freeloading, making it optional to pay for union representation.

Today Republicans in Congress are expected to introduce a bill to enact nationwide right to work in the private sector. And it’s nearly certain that a conservative-majority Supreme Court will make the entire public sector right to work within 18 months to two years.

How can unions operate under these hostile conditions? There are already 27 right-to-work states where we can look for lessons. Unions there take a big hit—but some manage to survive and even thrive, despite the extra challenges.

At the Electrical Workers (UE), where I organized for 19 years, we developed trainings to help members in right-to-work states maintain their unity and membership. Here’s what it takes:

1. FIGHT THE BOSS. ….
2. ASK PEOPLE TO JOIN. ….
3. MAKE MEMBERSHIP THE UNION’S BUSINESS, NOT THE BOSS’S. ….
4. TRACK UNION MEMBERSHIP. ….
5. INVOLVE MEMBERS IN BIGGER MOVEMENTS. ….