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Pence Shows Interest in Scott Walker-Style Collective Bargaining Reform

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recently spoke with Vice President Mike Pence about reforming collective bargaining by federal employees. Gov. Walker saw his public profile rise when he enacted Act 10—a package of government union collective bargaining reforms—in 2011. In Gov. Walker’s presidential campaign in 2015, he also put forth policies to curtail federal employees’ collective bargaining privileges.

It is a good sign that Vice President Pence seems interested in implementing collective bargaining reform based on the policies that Gov. Walker championed in his state, and proposed on the campaign trail. In Wisconsin, Act 10 has achieved massive savings—$5 billion according to analysis conducted by the MacIver Institute—and increased worker choice.

Most of these reforms would require legislative fixes. However, it is promising that the Trump administration is willing to take on the issue of government union reform.

One measure that would greatly increase worker freedom would be to require union recertification elections every couple of years. In the private-sector, most unions were organized decades ago, and this is more than likely the case at the federal level. The recertification process ensure that the workers represented by unions still desire union representation. In the private-sector, 94 percent of workers never voted for the union that represents them and controls their work conditions. Regular elections would ensure that the majority of union workers are represented by the union of their choice. Currently, once a federal government union wins representation over workers they never stand for reelection.

Another potential reform is to end the practice of the federal government acting as a collection agency for federal unions. The Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute requires federal agencies to deduct union dues from employee’s paychecks.

It is does not serve a public purpose to collect dues for a union, or any other private organization. This unnecessary provision has caught the attention of Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) who has introduced the Empower Employees Act to end the practice. 

In a statement, Rep. Meadows said, “The fact is, union dues are often automatically deducted before federal employees ever see their paychecks. This bill will empower those employees to choose how they wish to spend their hard-earned money.”

Additionally, Walker has proposed eliminating union officials’ access to federal employees’ private information during organizing drives. Under a common provision in labor law, when a union attempts to organize a workplace the employer—government or private-sector—is forced to hand over workers’ private information like home addresses.

This has led to union intimidation and other tactics against workers who resist union representation. As I wrote in the Charleston Gazette-Mail:

For example, in 2010, a case before the [National Labor Relations Board] involved agents of the Communication Workers of America Local 1103 in Connecticut using private information to harass a worker.

The CWA obtained Patricia Pelletier’s personal contact information and signed her up for thousands of unwanted magazine subscriptions and consumer products. She was billed thousands of dollars by magazine publishing companies and spent hours each day unsubscribing from the magazines.

Ms. Pelletier received this awful treatment simply because she tried to decertify her union. The ambush election rule only makes such retaliatory behavior easier to deploy against other hard-working men and women.

Hopefully, the Trump administration will prioritize federal collective bargaining reform that provides public employees with worker choice. Consulting with Gov. Walker is a great place to start.

My colleague Iain Murray and I have more ideas on what the Trump/Pence administration can do to reform labor and employment law in our recent Web Memo, First Steps for the Trump Administration: Unleash America’s Labor Force.

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore.