Labor

The Importance of National Employee Freedom Week

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Forced unionization undermines individual freedom and leads to higher government spending

Last week – August 14th – 20th – was National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW) 2016.

The mission of NEFW is to inform government workers about their options for obtaining more freedom and flexibility in the workplace. This effort includes the participation of 86 groups located in 39 states around the nation.

Currently, 26 states – one of which is Louisiana – have right-to-work laws, which allow government workers to fully opt-out of union membership and dues. Unfortunately, doing so is often an unduly difficult process and the availability of this option is frequently not made known to union members.

For this reason, NEFW reminds union members in right-to-work states of their freedom to choose whether they would like to continue handing over a portion of their hard-earned paycheck to their union, and even provides guidance for the opt-out process.

NEFW also offers alternatives for government workers in non-right-to-work states, who are denied this basic right to choose. NEFW points out that these workers can pay only agency fees or become religious or conscientious objectors, if appropriate, and their website offers assistance for navigating the process.

Indeed, data suggests that people value the freedom to leave union membership. NEFW reports upwards of 4 million union members in the United States want to opt-out of their union. Further, NEFW also reports that more than one in four union employees would withdraw from their union if there would not be retribution.

This is clearly the case in Louisiana, where NEFW found that 61 percent of union households agreed that workers should be free to represent themselves in negotiations with employers if they opt-out of union membership and dues.

In addition to preserving individual freedom, right to work states enjoy economic benefits as well. An April 2016 study by the Heritage Foundation highlights:

“Our analysis reveals a direct relationship between government unions’ power and the cost of state and local operations.”

More specifically, the Heritage Foundation found right-to-work states spend about $600-$750 less per capita each year, which lowers the cost of government – and tax burden – of about $2,300-$3,000 per family of four.

Of Louisiana, the report notes had lawmakers “required public employers to bargain collectively with all employee groups,” state spending in 2014 would have likely been $559 million and $1.2 billion greater. It is important to note that with mandatory arbitration, those numbers would increase between $1.4 billion and $2.9 billion.

And finally, union members often assume their collective bargaining dues are being invested in their professional development, but that is not exclusively the case. Unions have been known to invest significant amounts of dues money in political activity, with which their members may or may not support.

Some government workers may feel that the benefits associated with collective bargaining are outweighed by the fact that their dollars are funding political causes they oppose.

Given these concerns associated with union political activity, economic stability and individual freedom, it is important government employees are made aware of their options. Union members should recognize that do not have to invest part of their hard-earned paychecks on representation that fails to address the needs of the workers.

Margaret Mire is an Adjunct Scholar at the Pelican Institute for Public Policy

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