Right-To-Work Legislation Protects Workers
By Paul Munsch, June 27, 2017, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
It was just another day on the job at St. Louis Paving Inc., a business I started more than 50 years ago as a high school kid. A man approached me with a card that read, “Organizer, Laborers International Union of America.” He wanted to talk to me about how he could “improve my business” and told me I had until April 27 to respond. I replied, “No, thank you,” and headed to the worksite.
Turns out, unions don’t take “no,” for an answer.
On April 27, six cars showed up at our equipment yard and followed our trucks to the job site — a small shopping center in Ballwin. There, they videotaped our men, cars and equipment. They blew up a 20-foot inflatable rat with blood oozing out of its mouth and our company name emblazoned on its chest. Customers of the shops were turning away, intimidated by the ruckus.
One of our men told the union guys, “You can’t follow that car, it’s my girlfriend’s.” They said, “You’ll never know who we’ll follow.” We did not take their threats lightly. Unions in St. Louis have a history that would advise otherwise.
Over the next several years, the union that the man represented teamed up with the Operating Engineers Union to run what is officially known as a “Corporate Campaign” but more accurately called a “Top-Down Organizing Campaign.”
Rather than getting workers to vote for representation, they intimidate an owner into signing a union agreement.
They chased us, setting up pickets and the rat every work day for five years straight. We filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board five different times with no effect.
When we set up secret satellite equipment yards to keep them from finding our job sites, they put our main yard under 24-hour surveillance and stationed chaser cars on interstate entry ramps and at asphalt plants to watch for our trucks.
We still didn’t cave, so they put up five billboards saying, “St. Louis Paving Is Not Good for St. Louis.” By our estimate these huge international unions spent about $3 million bullying our small business.
Because Missouri wasn’t a right-to-work state, this harassment campaign was an easier way to drum up union membership than holding a more conventional election. If I had given in and become a union company, all of my employees, regardless of their personal feelings, would have been forced to join the union and pay dues, or find another job.
Not one of my 50 employees—many of whom had been with me for two decades—ever expressed a desire to unionize. Had they wanted to, just 30 percent, about 15 of them, could have signed a petition to trigger a union election.
Right-to-work laws, like those enacted in Missouri this year, prevent compulsory membership and protect the freedom of workers to choose whether to join a union.
Right to work also benefits the efficiency and professional development of workers.
Since our team isn’t large, my employees perform a variety of tasks. The guy who drives the truck will pick up a shovel; the guy who spreads asphalt might hop on the paving machine. This enables us to get the job done faster and at a lower cost. Just as importantly, it allows my employees to develop a diverse skill set, making them more marketable workers and opening the door to future career opportunities.
According to the rules of the three unions we would have dealt with — Teamsters, Operating Engineers, and Laborers — truck drivers can’t pick up a shovel or operate equipment and laborers or equipment operators can’t move a truck — institutionalized inefficiency that hurts our customers and workers.
Right-to-work laws even benefit willingly unionized workers by forcing unions to provide them with greater value. Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer of the United Auto Workers, said in 2014, “People think right to work hurts unions. To me, it helps them … because it’s a voluntary system, and if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”
In my case, it would have removed the incentive for unions to harass and intimidate my business and customers.
Now, thanks to right to work, union organizers in our state will be motivated by the wishes of workers — and isn’t that how it should be?
Paul Munsch is the owner and operations chief of St. Louis Paving Inc.
For full article: http://www.stltoday.com/opinion/columnists/right-to-work-legislation-protects-workers/article_751921b4-9f3f-5c05-96eb-03d820a718a2.html