What level of service would private businesses provide if they knew their consumers had no choice but to purchase their product?
In the real-world of private-sector industry, customers are retained by providing them with a good or a service at a price they are willing to pay. In the world of public-sector unions, however, coercion, cronyism and deceit are the favored methods of retaining members and driving up revenue.
It shouldn’t be surprising that public-sector unions resort to such tactics. After all, coercion is a staple of the public sector in general, given that taxpayers are a captive “customer” base with no legitimate way to avoid the bulk of taxation.
In the case of unions this situation is exceptionally egregious, given that they push for compulsory membership among the very people they claim they want to protect from mistreatment.
Unions have successfully lobbied in many states for laws that limit — if not altogether prohibit — public-sector workers from leaving their unions. But even in states where workers are free to do so, labor bosses often go out of their way to make things as difficult as possible. Nevada school teachers, for example, have a mere two-week window — in the middle of summer — to opt out of union membership.
In California, employees who decide to opt out are forced to keep paying a portion of their dues to a union that they have already decided does not adequately represent their interests.
Unions call these mandatory dues “agency fees” — claiming that because workers benefit from the union regardless of whether or not they are members, they should be forced to pay something to labor leaders.
Of course, if the workers believed they were actually “benefiting” from the union, why are they leaving in the first place?
Clearly, the concept of allowing workers the freedom to represent themselves in their employment terrifies union leaders. And maybe it does so with good reason. After all, what might happen if employees were given absolute freedom to choose for themselves how, or if, they are to be represented in the workplace?
Polling done for National Employee Freedom Week (August 14 – 20) has shown, year after year, that the vast majority of union workers don’t mind the idea of allowing fellow employees to opt out of the union. A sizeable number have even said that, given the option, they themselves would be interested in leaving as well — which shouldn’t be that surprising. If workers don’t see the value in the union’s often politics-driven agenda, doesn’t it seem sensible that they be free to separate themselves from collective bargaining agents?
Of course, worker freedom poses a real threat to unions that have carved out a lucrative business model based on forcing workers to pay dues. Just as many public sector agencies, if left to market forces, would likely find themselves irrelevant, so too might many unions.
Normally, such low customer satisfaction would encourage an organization to adjust their product or service.
But not unions.
Their decades-old campaign to coerce public-sector employees into membership has had a real impact on workers, public policy and even taxpayers. While private-sector union membership has dropped over the years, laws designed to force public workers into collective bargaining agreements have helped shape unions into some of the most powerful political forces in America — routinely ranking as the largest political donors year after year.
Unsurprisingly, with this much political power, unions have worked hard to increase the size of government — looking to corral ever more dues-paying members. Collectively, this has burdened taxpayers with astronomical increases to the cost of government.
According to a recent study by the Heritage Foundation, if union membership was simply made voluntary nationwide, state and local governments would have been able to save between $127 and $164 billion in 2014 alone.
Just as all workers should have the right to judge for themselves the value of a union, they should also have the right to leave — easily.
Underneath the arguments against allowing workers the freedom to choose, is a basic lack of respect for the workers themselves. To opponents of employee freedom, these workers are seen as little more than a walking bunch of membership dues — just waiting to be cashed.
And that says everything you need to know about how “pro-worker” public sector unions really are.
Michael Schaus is communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.