By SHERI GASSAWAY
Knowing “right-to-work” legislation will soon become a reality in Missouri, union officers of Laborers’ Local 42 have been busy researching the impact its had on unions in other “right-to-work” states and brainstorming ideas on how to address the situation locally.
At the Local 42 January union meeting, Business Manager/Secretary Treasurer Brandon Flinn provided members with an overview of the legislation and an update on the union’s options as an organization.
“Right-to-work” injects government into the collective bargaining process by prohibiting companies from negotiating labor contracts that require workers – as a condition of employment – to pay either dues or a ‘fair share fee’ for the union representation they receive.
“It outlaws the union security provision of our contract,” Flinn said. It means a laborer working for a signatory contractor can refuse to pay any monthly dues and still receive the same benefits as you all do including pay, health and welfare, pension, access to the training fund, drug testing and representation for grievances.”
Flinn noted that those who do not pay dues would not have access to any union paid for benefit. He said they cannot attend union meetings or functions, have no voting rights, are not eligible for any union-provided life or ancillary insurance and cannot get on the union’s “out-of-work list.”
Local 42 leaders have been involved in several discussions with Laborer district councils in “right-to-work” states including Indiana and Florida, and they have done extensive research on the law’s effects in Michigan and Wisconsin.
“Our goal was to find out what those unions did or wished they had done differently when right to work became law and what they are doing to maintain work in that type of atmosphere,” Flinn said.
Officers have also held multiple strategy sessions with other Missouri locals, state Laborer district councils and Local 42 attorneys and are continuing to work with the Missouri AFL-CIO on forward-looking plans of action.
While the majority of Local 42 members will continue to stand united as the new law takes effect, there will be members who stop paying dues.
Flinn said the union plans to develop a list of freeloaders that will be posted on its website. In addition, members will be given a Local 42 sticker to wear on their hardhats signifying that they are dues-paying members, Flinn said. The color of the stickers will change each year.
In closing, Flinn encouraged union members to stay up to date on what is going on by visiting the Local 42 website and social media pages. He also urged members to get involved, stay involved and attend union and labor club meetings.
Additionally, Flinn called on volunteers to help gather signatures for a 2018 ballot initiative petition filed by the Missouri AFL-CIO that would amend the state constitution to protect union negotiating rights.
The Missouri AFL-CIO has filed several versions of the petition knowing the National Right to Work Committee would challenge it on the wording. (See related story). The Missouri AFL-CIO has called a Feb. 23 meeting to educate union leaders on how to proceed.
“We’re going to need a lot of signatures to get this on the ballot,” Flinn said. “This is a grass roots effort, and we need to be stronger than ever to win this.”