USS Big Labor Titanic taking States on a Ride to the Bottom

‘The People Who Can Leave Are Leaving’

uss-new-jersey-titanic
Even as thousands of working-age New Jerseyans flee to Right to Work states each year to escape onerous living costs and taxes, Big Labor Gov. Phil Murphy claims the state is on the right track. Credit: Sean Delonas/City Journal

Union Boss-Dominated Garden State Faces Economic Death Spiral

Public support for the principle that membership in and financial support for a labor organization should be matters of individual choice has deep roots in Florida.

In 1944, Florida and Arkansas became the first two of the 27 states, so far, to protect employees’ Right to Work. The Sunshine and Razorback States acted more than two-and-a-half years before the U.S. Congress explicitly gave the green light for such protections in the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act.

The Right to Work principle is even enshrined in the Florida Constitution.

But for many years now, government union bosses have undercut Florida’s and other states’ Right to Work laws by wielding their government-granted monopoly-bargaining privileges to extract so-called “official time” (sometimes also referred to as “release time”) deals from public employers.

Official-time schemes enable government employees who are also union officials to be paid by taxpayers to advance the interests of the union rather than the missions of their agencies.

Taxpayer Money Finances Union Grievance Cases Against Taxpayer-Funded Agencies!

Last year, in response to public-records requests they received from the Washington, D.C.-based Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), Miami-Dade County, the City of Jacksonville, and the City of Tampa admitted they do not even try to monitor the activities union agents conduct on the taxpayer dime.

And the cost to taxpayers is substantial, as CEI policy analyst Trey Kovacs reported in a commentary early this March:

“In FY 2014, FY 2015, and FY 2016, Miami-Dade County employees spent nearly 100,000 hours on release time each year, at a cost to taxpayers of $3.2 million, $3.1 million, and $2.9 million, respectively.”

In Jacksonville and Tampa, “the cost of release time amounted to several hundred thousand dollars annually.”

Jacksonville’s pact with several government unions explicitly authorizes union agents to be paid by taxpayers while they pursue grievance cases against taxpayer-funded agencies!

National Right to Work Committee Vice President Mary King commented:

“The most effective single solution for anti-taxpayer official-time schemes and a host of other related Big Labor abuses is to prohibit all union monopoly bargaining in government workplaces.

“Without so-called ‘exclusive union representation’ power to codetermine with public employers the terms and conditions of employment for union nonmembers as well as members, Big Labor officials find it relatively difficult to grab official-time privileges.

“A good first step would be simply to prohibit government union officials from wielding their monopoly-bargaining power to extract official-time deals from public employers.

“That’s the approach of H.B.13, legislation introduced this year by pro-Right to Work Florida state Rep. Jayer Williamson [R-Pace].” 

Apologists For Official Time Will Fight Tooth and Nail to Perpetuate It

“Mr. Williamson’s bill,” continued Ms. King, “would simply prohibit public employers from cutting deals with Big Labor that permit government employees who are also union activists from getting paid by taxpayers to attend union conventions, lobby for union boss-favored legislation, or conduct other union business.

“On March 6, H.B.13 was reported favorably out of the Florida House Oversight, Transparency, & Public Management Subcommittee. Subsequently, National Right to Work contacted every Florida House member to urge support for this measure.

“But union-label politicians will fight tooth and nail to perpetuate Big Labor’s release-time privileges.

“At the subcommittee hearing, one member actually dared to claim that the Florida government union operatives who are currently taking taxpayers’ money for union work are ‘volunteers,’ and thus insinuated that opponents of release time are opposed to ‘volunteering.’

“The reality, of course, is that volunteers are people who work for free. Public employees who are paid to conduct union business cannot legitimately be labeled as ‘volunteers.’

“Today, thanks to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation’s 2018 Supreme Court victory in Janus, public employees have a recognized First Amendment right not to subsidize union advocacy directed at public officials.

“Official-time schemes that force taxpayers to subsidize such Big Labor advocacy are just plain wrong. The Committee will do everything feasible to help the people of Florida and the other 49 states stop them.”