Beltway Big Shots Target Local Public Workers

As Right to Work staff attorney Glenn Taubman (right) told a U.S. House panel this March, “[F]orcing an individual to be represented by a private organization is antithetical to American values of free speech and free association.”  credited: U.S. House, Committee on Education and the Workforce.
As Right to Work staff attorney Glenn Taubman (right) told a U.S. House panel this March, “[F]orcing an individual to be represented by a private organization is antithetical to American values of free speech and free association.” credited: U.S. House, Committee on Education and the Workforce.

Pervasive Government-Sector Unionization Linked to Higher Taxes

Today special-interest laws on the books in more than 30 states explicitly force local governments, under certain conditions, to hand monopoly-bargaining control over some or all of their front-line civil servants to Big Labor.

State laws promoting so-called “exclusive” union representation in public workplaces have made union bosses like American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) kingpin Lee Saunders and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) czarina Randi Weingarten into political powerbrokers.

Government union chiefs wield enormous clout over taxpayers and politicians.

However, thanks to the determined and persistent opposition of National Right to Work Committee members, the union political machine has so far not succeeded in ramming through Congress legislation federally mandating union monopoly-bargaining control over state and local public employees nationwide.

Considered Decisions of State Lawmakers Would Be Overturned

Now rabidly pro-forced unionism U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Congressman Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) are out to eliminate the sovereign authority of states to protect their own employees and employees of their localities from government union-boss tyranny.

On June 25, Ms. Hirono and Mr. Cartwright simultaneously introduced in their respective chambers the cynically mislabeled Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (S.1970 and H.R.3463).

This legislation would force hundreds of thousands of American teachers, police officers, firefighters, and other public employees to accept, as their monopoly-bargaining agent, a union they never voted for and want nothing to do with.

This federal power grab would obliterate state statutes in North Carolina and Virginia that expressly prohibit officers of those states and their localities from delegating a portion of their authority to set the terms and conditions of employment for civil servants to government union chiefs.

It would also override the wishes of generations of lawmakers in states like Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, and South Carolina who have again and again rejected demands by union lobbyists that they pass legislation to foist monopoly bargaining on state and local public employees.

Testifying before a U.S. House panel this March, National Right to Work staff attorney Glenn Taubman cited the most compelling reason of all why Congress should not go down this road:

“[F]orcing an individual to be represented by a private organization is antithetical to American values of free speech and free association.”

Even union-label Maine Gov. Janet Mills scoffs at the idea that control over public
workplaces should be ceded to Big Labor-friendly “arbitrators.” Radical D.C.
politicians want to mandate anti-taxpayer “binding arbitration” anyway. Credit: Troy R. Bennett, Bangor (Maine) Daily News

State Monopoly-Bargaining Density Closely Correlated With Higher Taxes

National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix commented:

“While public servants who value their personal freedom to affiliate or not affiliate with a private organization are the primary victims of government-promoted union ‘exclusivity,’ many other citizens are also harmed.

“For example, everyone who pays state and local taxes has a stake in opposing monopolistic unionism in public workplaces.

“Government union bosses are the most aggressive advocates of higher taxes and more government spending in state capitals as well as in Washington, D.C.

“While bigwigs of unions like AFSCME and the AFT push hard for Tax & Spend policies everywhere, they naturally do so with greater success in states that authorize and promote union monopoly bargaining over public workers’ terms and conditions of employment.”

Mr. Mix pointed to a recent analysis by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research demonstrating a close correlation between the pervasiveness of union monopoly control over public employees in a state and its overall state-local tax burden as a share of income.

Under Government Unionism, a Lower Return For Taxpayers On Their Education Dollar

The Institute ranked the 50 states according to their share of public servants who were subject to union monopoly bargaining in 2016, using data reported in the 2017 edition of the Union Membership and Earnings Data Book, edited by labor economists Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson and published by Bloomberg BNA.

The Institute next looked at these data in conjunction with data on state-and-local tax collections in 2016 as reported by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

“Among the 17 states with the highest share of public employees under union monopoly control,” noted Mr. Mix, “state and local taxes combined consumed 11.0% of all personal income in 2016.

“That represents an aggregate state and local burden 22% higher than the aggregate burden for the 16 states ranking in the middle for monopoly-bargaining density and 26% heavier than the average for the 17 states where government union bosses wield the least coercive power over public employees.

“In other words, every year, residents of government-union-stronghold states have to work an average of an extra week, plus an extra Monday after that, just to pay off their state and local taxes, compared to residents of states where relatively few, if any, public employees are forced to accept union representation.

“In addition to having a lighter burden, citizens in low-union-density states apparently get a better return on their tax dollar.

“A landmark 2018 study by economist  Stan Liebowitz and researcher Matthew Kelly showed that six of the nine states where ethnically and racially diverse students do best relative to how much schools spend are Texas, Virginia, Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina and Colorado.

“All of these states either expressly prohibit or do not statutorily authorize union monopoly bargaining in K-12 public education.”

Hirono-Cartwright is so extreme it would force many, if not all, states that already authorize union monopoly bargaining in the public sector to grant even more sweeping special privileges to government union bosses.

‘Forfeiting This Responsibility Is Contrary to the Principle Of Representative Democracy’

For example, this legislation would mandate that the terms and conditions of employment for unionized public workers be set by private “arbitrators” if public officials and government union chiefs reach an “impasse” in their negotiations.

Forced-unionism Maine is one of many states with a monopoly-bargaining statute that currently do not require such anti-taxpayer “binding arbitration.”

In fact, just this summer, Democrat Gov. Janet Mills, elected in 2018 with the support of many union officials, vetoed a binding-arbitration bill, explaining that there are “good reasons why our state has previously rejected this approach.”

Ms. Mills elaborated: “To delegate to private binding arbitrators the authority to set [salaries, pensions and insurance] is to forfeit a fundamental responsibility of our school boards, city councils, town select boards, boards of trustees and governmental branch leaders.

“Forfeiting this responsibility is contrary to the principle of representative democracy . . . .”

Freedom-Loving Citizens Must Prepare to Launch a Grassroots Counterattack

“S.1970/H.R.3463 is so extreme it would wipe out even minimal constraints on Big Labor ‘exclusivity,’” commented Mr. Mix. “It is alarming that nearly 150 members of Congress had already cosponsored this scheme by the beginning of August.

“Fortunately, with avowed Right to Work supporters currently serving as President and Senate majority leader, S.1970/H.R.3463 is unlikely to become law this year or next.

“But depending on the outcome of the 2020 elections, a bid to federalize government-sector union monopoly bargaining could become a major threat in less than a year-and-a-half. That’s why the Committee is already preparing to help freedom-loving citizens nationwide launch a grassroots counterattack.”