Monday, January 12, 2009

Clear as mud

A guy at work and I were having a disagreement over the status of Colorado employment laws. He said he came from Arizona and it was a Right to Work state. I said Colorado was as well. He was a little pushy and I got a little frustrated, so I put my paralegal skills to work and did some research (actually it didn't take my paralegal skills, any idiot can do it if they have the right tools, but I wanted to make him think it was a big deal :-)). Here's what I found out:

Right-to-work laws are statutes enforced in twenty-two U.S. states, mostly in the southern or western U.S., allowed under provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, which prohibit agreements between trade unions and employers making membership or payment of union dues or "fees" a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.

At-will employment is a doctrine of American law that defines an employment relationship in which either party can break the relationship with no liability, provided there was no express contract for a definite term governing the employment relationship and that the employer does not belong to a collective bargain (i.e. a union). Under this legal doctrine:

any hiring is presumed to be "at will"; that is, the employer is free to discharge individuals "for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all," and the employee is equally free to quit, strike, or otherwise cease work.[1]

Several exceptions to the doctrine exist, especially if unlawful discrimination is involved regarding the termination of an employee.

Since this reduces job security, it can create, in theory, an atmosphere of fear that may contribute to workplace bullying[citation needed]. As a means of downsizing, such as closing an unprofitable factory, a company may terminate employees en masse. However, there are legal limitations upon the employer's ability to terminate without reason.

Colorado follows the at-will employment doctrine. When I was recruiting that language was put verbatim in employment offer letters.

So this cleared it up for us. In Colorado, with the exception of Amendment 47, which has yet to be ratified, you have to join a union or lose your job. In Arizona, you don't have to join the union in order to work for a union shop, but you miss out on the many benefits, such as the union taking union dues and doing absolutely nothing except keeping your pay rate down so you can't really make a living, and telling you that they are helping you make a better living than what you would make without them (people really believe it too). We have one non-union shop here in the valley. Because they don't have the union dictating pay rates, they have been able to give people raises which helps keep good people on the ship. For instance, our carry-outs make $7.15 an hour (increase to come with the federal minimum wage increase), the non-union store carry-outs start at $10.00 an hour, and have the possibility of getting a raise based on performance. Hmmmm...I can see where the union helps by keeping less than mediocre people on board and losing decent people with possibility because they can go to a higher paying job. I know those aren't mind boggling wages, but we live in the grand valley, where pay has always been behind the eight ball. I think the union ensures we stay there, which is really too bad, because what we are facing now is the challenge of hiring anyone who has the potential to someday become a manager, which directly affects our ability to provide excellent customer service, and that is our primary goal.

The old adage, "you get what you pay for", is really true in this scenario, I see it every single day I work. One thing we pay for the privilege of living in a beautiful area that is somewhat isolated. I am willing to pay that premium because I do make somewhat of a living wage and have potential once I get my confidence back, and I love this area of the country. But others that I work with, aren't making ends meet, and having to make some really tough choices. I'm happy to pay the price too because I did make a lot of money in past careers, but never found peace or satisfaction in what I was doing. Now I have a job, not a definition of who I am, and time to work on my dream.

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