Protecting employees from coerced union membership (and with it, forced union dues) has always been a top priority for the Free Enterprise Club, which is why we are proud to once again participate in National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW). NEFW is a grassroots campaign of 97 groups educating citizens and voters about workplace rights—specifically, their right to leave their union and opt-out of paying a portion of their union dues.
A new survey released by the coalition demonstrates that over 39 percent of union households nationwide aren’t aware that they can opt-out of union membership and of paying at least a portion of their union dues without losing their job or any other penalty.
This isn’t surprising: Unions would prefer that their members not to know about their rights, and to counter, some unions restrict opt-outs to certain windows each year – sometimes as short as two weeks a year.
Unions have been losing support among everyday workers, and the latest numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics bear this out. According to data released in January, the union membership rate has continued its steady decline to 11.1 percent, down from 12.4 percent in 2008 when President Obama won his first presidential election.
Additionally, it’s not only employees that have been voting with their feet, but employers as well. Over the last several years, businesses and corporate headquarters have been relocating to right to work state at a rapid rate, and with it taking their jobs and economic growth with them. An extensive analysis done by economists Steve Moore and Arthur Laffer showed unequivocally that two factors—the income tax and right to work laws–are the key determining factors between high growth states vs. low growth states.
While union membership has been plummeting, political spending by union bosses remains stronger than ever. During the 2012 election cycle, big labor spent a whopping $1.7 billion on political activity. Where did the money go? According to the Center for Responsive Politics, 92 percent went to Democrats. Conversely, approximately 40% of union members voted for Romney in the Presidential election.
Here in Arizona, while we are a right to work state, we continue to lack adequate taxpayer and employee protections against union overreach. Two such examples include the failure to pass paycheck protection laws and our lack of more robust collective bargaining limitations to protect both taxpayers and union members from abuse.
Thankfully, just last week the Goldwater Institute won a landmark case that will limit the abuse of a practice known as ‘Union Release Time’, a benefit that allowed union members to engage in political activity and negotiate new union contracts at taxpayer expense.
Of course, some union employees may decide that they’re getting their money’s worth, and that’s okay. But many union members have had enough, and the NEFW coalition is in place to show them the way out. No one should feel compelled to pay thousands in union dues as a condition of employment. Now, as more employees are learning, they don’t have to.