Government Union Privilege Highlights Necessity to End Forced Union Dues in Public Sector

Every worker should be able to get and keep a job without being forced to pay union dues. Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced it will hear a case that could make that a reality by ending compulsory union dues payments in state and local public employment.

SCOTUS will decide in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association whether or not government workers’ First Amendment rights are at risk by so-called “agency fees” that require non-union members to pay dues as a condition of employment.

On top of the fact that all workers deserve the freedom to determine how they spend their paycheck, government unions possess many other privileges beyond just the power to force workers to pay or lose. The following are a few examples that show why government unions are unworthy of the power to compel union dues payments on top of the obvious that workers deserve the freedom to choose.

A new report produced by the Mackinac Center brings to light how little financial transparency is required of government unions. In the private sector, labor unions must file annual financial reports that detail how union dues are paid. The Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act, which requires private-sector unions to file financial reports that detail union spending, is supposed to let the public and members know how dues are spent. These disclosures have exposed many instances of illegal activity.

Unfortunately, as the report highlights, public-sector unions are not held to the same standard of financial transparency as their private-sector counterparts and this eases government unions’ ability to engage in illegal activities.

Government unions maintain the same coercive power to collect dues as private-sector unions and should be held to the same transparency standards. Although workers should not be compelled to pay a private organization or risk termination, at a minimum public employees should know how their dues are being spent.

Another instance of government union privilege is secrecy surrounding contract negotiations.

As Goldwater Institute research finds, the majority of states do not allow the public to attend public contract negotiations between government unions and public officials nor does the government release the details on costs of collective bargaining agreements to the public before approval of such contracts. Why should government unions have the power to force workers to pay dues when the public, and members in many instances, do not know what unions are negotiating or how much it will cost the public?

In Pennsylvania, legislators are pushing two reforms to shed light on the cost and details of collective bargaining agreements.

The Legal Intelligencer reports that the Pennsylvania state Senate passed “[l]egislation that would require a state fiscal office to determine the cost of public-sector contracts before they take effect cleared the state House of Representatives State Government Committee.”

Another reform making its way through the Pennsylvania legislature is a bill that requires collective bargaining agreement contents to be made public before the approval of such agreements.

More evidence that public workers should be freed from compulsory dues also comes from Pennsylvania. As discussed, non-union members in the public sector are forced to pay union dues, but an exception exists that allows workers to declare that they are religious objectors and may give the equal amount of forced dues to a charity.

As a religious objector, a worker is allowed to choose which charity receives payment. However, in Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania State Education Association does not like the charity teacher Linda Misja has chosen and a three plus-year battle has ensued on where her dues will go.

Misja comments to the explain her plight:

“I was turned down because they said People Concerned for the Unborn Child was not in line with their policies or their beliefs. They proposed Planned Parenthood, a group that is the reason I have my religious objection in the first place.

The second charity was the NRA Foundation. Giving grants to go to schools to teach Eddie the Eagle firearms safety is a good idea. I was turned down. I was quite surprised when they said it was political.”

While a favorable SCOTUS decision in Friedrichs v. California Teacher Association will not roll back all government union privileges, it would at least protect workers from paying tribute to government unions that operate to protect their own self-interest and do the public more harm than good.