Published August 24, 2012
At their “shadow conference” last week in Philadelphia, union bosses were pushing their new message hard. Collective bargaining is now to be looked at as a fundamental civil right for all Americans. And President Obama, who supports the union agenda pretty much 100%, would undoubtedly express his support for this proposition--if it weren’t an election year and unions weren’t polling so low.
But don’t let union sophistry convince you. Collective bargaining is no “right.” It is a “wrong” that happens to you when your actual right to sell your own labor is taken away from you and given to a private organization—a union.
And collective bargaining is not the only way that unions exercise coercion over America’s workers. Here are just a few examples of how unions are trampling workers’ rights—from my new book on government employee unions, "Shadowbosses," out this week.
Huge numbers of government employees are forced to accept union representation without their consent.
In most private businesses, people bargain for themselves and are able to command what the market will bear. Only about 7.6 percent of private workers are under union collective bargaining. But around 41 percent of government employees are forced to accept union representation—whether they want it or not.
Government employees, like all workers, should be allowed to join unions if they want to. But people should have the right to make their own choices. Government employees in 43 states—including 16 Right-to-Work states and the federal government are forced to accept union representation in government workplaces, whether they want it or not.
Collective bargaining means that all the employees in a unionized workplace are forced under union representation. This violates these workers’ rights to sell their own labor freely, and inserts a union between them and their employer in all matters related to their job. Because the union is so involved in their workplace, these workers often face great pressures, even coercion, to join the union and do join in far larger numbers than workers who are given the choice to represent themselves.
Government workers are forced to pay union dues to keep their jobs in 22 states.
In many states, government workers are not only forced to accept a union as their bargaining representative, but they are also forced to pay dues and fees to the union—or lose their jobs. This is forced-unionism at its worst. You shouldn’t have to pay a middleman at a private organization--a union--just to get or keep your government job.
States must protect government workers from compulsory union dues through specific laws protecting government workers. Right-to-Work laws cover only private sector workers, but the 23 states that have Right-to-Work laws on the books also provide similar protections to government workers under other laws. Likewise, a national Right-to-Work law would protect private sector workers, but not government workers.
Dues forcibly collected from America’s workers are the gasoline that fuels the unions’ vast political spending. More than three-quarters of the dues income that government unions collect is from forced dues states.
Millions of government workers are represented by unions that they never voted for and may not ever get a chance to vote on.
In the private sector, companies come and go. But the government, up until recently, never goes out of business. As a result, once a government workplace is unionized, it remains unionized basically forever.
Teachers in a particular school district may have voted for a union in 1959 when government employees began to unionize. A teacher hired in that district today will be represented by that same union--over a half-century after the vote took place. That teacher will likely never be able to vote on whether she wants union representation—ever. The fact is 90-percent of union members never had the chance to vote in an election to decide whether a union should represent their workplace.
To give government employees a real say in whether they want a union in their workplace, every unionized workplace should require a secret ballot election on a regular basis, say--every three years.
The people who work in the workplace today should decide whether a union should represent them and shouldn’t be bound by a decision that their predecessors made decades earlier. While there is a process to decertify unions, the procedure is so difficult to satisfy that it almost never occurs. Usually decertification only occurs when one union campaigns to get another union thrown out and to steal its business.
The evidence shows that when given the choice, many individual government workers decide to end union control over their workplace.
Under Governor Scott Walker, government employees in Wisconsin were finally given the chance to vote on a having ‘union representation’ or not. Immediately, forced-union workplaces faded away and 50% of their membership left the union halls. Given the choice, most Wisconsin government employees felt union membership was not worth the cost. And the ones who think union membership is worth the cost remain union members.
Imagine what might happen if governments allowed all workers to have a choice. We need to give all union members the right to decide freely whether their ‘union representation’ is worth buying. This freedom would certainly protect workers’ rights a lot more than forcing collective bargaining on them, as the unions wish to do.