US: Texas Strike Laws

Randy Black brought up an important point about unionization: Going on strike in Texas is always a hit or miss affair. Texas remains a /right-to-work/ state, in that /you cannot be required by law/ to join an organized labor union in order to go to work /as you may be in many states of the North/. In many Northern states, one must join a union in order to work in many industries, just to go to work.  Gene Franklin comments: What Mr Black does not mention is that those workers who fail to join a union nevertheless usually benefit from the union's actions. I believe in some states non-union workers in a unionized company are required to pay (partial?) dues in recognition of this. They are not required to pay dues designed to support union activities outside the particular company. What is the law in Texas in this regard? On the general topic, what I think it is most unfair are the actions of companies like Walmart who apply extreme downward pressure on workers' wages and upward pressure on workers' performance. Then they close stores rather than honor a vote for a union. The struggle for power between workers and owners is an essential part of the political and economic landscape. Former labor secretary Reich had an interesting op ed piece on the topic in the New YorkTimes recently.

RH:  To this should be added that the executives who do the squeezing, close stores, and leave workers on the street, award themselves fat salaries as a reward for their efficiency.  I knew an executive who toured the Latin American branches of his company, and, on his return to the US, boasted how many workers he had fired at each stop.  He was quite insensitive to the misery he had caused.  Executives should curb their greed and take pride in a job well and humanely done.

Adriana Pena writes: I wonder why Randy Black, in his rosy view of Wal-Mart, does not mention all the employees that have to supplement their income through charity. As someone who has to freeze her toes ringing the bell for the local charity, I regard Wal-Mart as a freeloader on my good nature.  And what about the new rulers for truckers, keeping them on the road for 16 hours? Do any of the people who make the rules have any idea of the effect of fatigue on driver's alertness and response time? Have they considered how dangerous a heavy truck can be on the road? How many people will have to die until they realize what imbeciles they are?

Randy Black writes: Per Gene Franklin’s question about Texas and union rules, as Texas is a right-to-work state, there are few ‘union shops’ around. One cannot be forced in any way to join a union, or to pay even partial dues to a union shop in Texas (if you can find one), nor in dozens of other states, as far as I’ve heard or learned.
As far as Wal-Mart, being the largest US employer (1.4 million) and largest and most profitable retail firm, it’s always a target for those who would take control of their business practices. I recall only one store that unionized and was closed (in Canada). The reason that Wal-Mart gave was that the store was unprofitable. If Mr. Franklin has more information on actual closings after a vote to unionize, please share it with us. Wal-Mart is right to point out that their average wage among floor employees is above $11 per hour and that 80 percent of the firm’s employees have health coverage, either via the firm’s health benefits plan or via a spouse’s coverage at a different employer.
I recall that Wal-Mart points out that 40 percent of its workers who enjoy very low cost health coverage via the firm, never before had health coverage prior to their job at Wal-Mart. But as the 400-pound gorilla, I am certain that Wal-Mart will continue to attract negative publicity and lawsuits for even the tiniest transgression that is contrary to what the opposition wishes. A quick search of the Internet revealed that the primary critics of Wal-Mart include the AFL-CIO, a variety of anarchist type websites and the occasional news item. One of my neighbors, a black woman, is manager of a nearby Wal-Mart. She recently told me that 60 percent of Wal-Mart employees report they joined the firm because of the employment benefits, including health insurance that has no upper coverage limits and is priced according to the employee’s income level. The firm offers profit sharing to any who works at least six months (1,000) hours per year, a 401(k) plan, long term disability, dental, health and life insurance coverage, along with the usual vacation and incentive plans. My neighbor completed high school, but not college, about 18 years ago, started as a clerk in the optometrist office of the local Wal-Mart at minimum wage, and today earns more than $130,000 annually. Not bad for a high school graduate under 40.

RH:  Such success stories warm one's heart. The problem is that Wal Mart is the target of criticism, and I am not referring to "a variety of anarchist type websites". People like me find it difficult to say who is telling the truth.


Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: April 16, 2005