By Jason Hart | Watchdog.org
Union reformers have designed an escape hatch for millions of teachers and government workers forced to accept union representation.
F. Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy director at the free-market Mackinac Center for Public Policy, spelled out the problem and his proposed “Worker’s Choice” fix in a report published Tuesday.
CHOICE: F. Vincent Vernuccio wants to end forced union representation in the public sector
“We’re suggesting a very simple, very commonsense approach that if workers don’t want representation, and don’t want to pay for representation, they should be able to represent themselves,” Vernuccio told Watchdog.org.
“It gives workers the freedom to say, ‘No thanks,’ and it gives unions the freedom to say, ‘Goodbye,’ and it works out for everybody,” Vernuccio continued.
Under existing laws in most states, some or all public-sector workers can unionize. When they do, the union becomes their “exclusive representative” in negotiations with employers.
Exclusive representation gives unions monopoly bargaining power over workers’ pay and other aspects of their jobs, restricting the freedom of workers and of unions, too.
Unions support exclusive representation, but complain about its effects in states where right-to-work laws let workers avoid forced dues.
Even in right-to-work states, workers can be stuck with representation they don’t want — and unions stuck representing nonmembers, referred to as “free riders” by union bosses.
The Worker’s Choice model legislation Vernuccio recommends would fix this for public-sector workers and their unions, without making any other changes to union laws.
“We went to great lengths to make sure there were no unintended consequences of this idea,” Vernuccio said. “Mainly, we made sure that it’s a small, logical change and it doesn’t change collective bargaining in any other way.”
With right-to-work laws on the books in 25 states — including traditional union strongholds Michigan and Wisconsin — Vernuccio and Mackinac believe it’s past time to address the issue of forced representation.
Vernuccio thinks state legislatures could accomplish this using his Worker’s Choice plan to reform public-sector union laws, most of which are based on the National Labor Relations Act of 1935.
John Adams, an Ohio Senate candidate and former member of Ohio House leadership who pushed for right-to-work in the state before reaching his term limit, sees Worker’s Choice as a logical extension of right-to-work.
“I would support any legislation advancing the American dream of having a job without being forced to have a union between you and your employer,” Adams told Watchdog.org.
Adams suggested lawmakers could easily implement Worker’s Choice in right-to-work states, since those states already protect workers from forced union dues.
“Worker’s Choice would take away the union ‘free rider’ complaint,” he added, which could lead more states to adopt right-to-work laws.
But not his home state, at least for the foreseeable future. “In Ohio it’s not about being able to win the argument, because there’s no political will to even make the argument,” Adams said.
In states with right-to-work laws, Vernuccio sees Worker’s Choice as the missing piece that would free public-sector unions to behave like other businesses.
“Right-to-work makes unions stronger,” Vernuccio said, “Because unions can’t take their membership for granted in a right-to-work state.”
With Worker’s Choice, “those unions can go back to those workers and say, ‘If you want representation, you have to pay up,’” he explained.
“That’s the way the free market works,” Vernuccio concluded. “Essentially it’s a binary choice: either you’re in the union and paying the union, or you’re out of the union and representing yourself.”