What a Union Looks Like in a RTW State

Alabama UAW shuns rhetoric, gives honest answers

As auto manufacturing has shifted to the South, the UAW has made a push to begin unionizing workers in right-to-work states.

The words and actions of union officials are interesting compared to states where workers are still forced to pay money to the union.

On the website for a UAW chapter in Alabama, which is trying to organize workers at a Mercedes-Benz plant, the union writes the following in its FAQ section:

Q: Do I have to join the union?

A: First of all remember Alabama is a Right to Work state; therefore, it is totally voluntary whether or not you decide to join the union and pay union dues. If you think your local union is doing a good job representing you and in negotiations for improvements then we hope you will join. If you feel it isn’t then it is your right not to join.

Q: Alabama is a "Right to Work" state. What does "Right to Work" mean?

A: The law speaks to one narrow issue. The right to work law means that Mercedes employees have the right to join or not join the union. It is the employee's choice. It does NOT mean that workers in Alabama don't have the right to form unions. They do. In fact, there are many workers all over the country – including in Alabama – who have strong, effective unions in so-called "right to work" states.

Contrast that with Michigan, where it is said that right-to-work laws "destroy unions," "eliminates the middle class," and will lead to "blood." Where unions harass teachers, intimidate employees who disagree, and freeload off of members with the spending of dues or fees on issues with which they don't agree.

As the UAW branch in Alabama notes, right-to-work laws change nothing about collective bargaining other than making it illegal to fire a worker for not paying money to a union. This choice means the union is more responsive to its membership. If it isn't, well, "it is your right not to join."