This week, The Heartland Institute celebrated National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW), a week dedicated to promoting worker freedom. NEFW began as a local effort to inform Las Vegas public school teachers of their right to choose whether to join a union. Six years later, NEFW includes more than 100 coalition partners nationwide that advocate for states to enact pro-worker freedom reforms.
NEFW 2018 comes on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which barred the practice of charging agency (or “fair share”) fees to all public workers, regardless of union membership status. Public unions collect agency fees, which are meant to cover the costs of collective-bargaining activity. Agency fees are not supposed to be used to fund unions’ partisan political activity. However, many argue unions are inherently political and agency fees are regularly used to fund unions’ political causes. Thanks to the ruling in Janus, all public workers are now able to choose whether they will pay a union part of their salary. In some ways, this has transformed all states into right-to-work (RTW) states.
Although public union spokespeople constantly attack RTW laws, RTW legislation protects workers. RTW laws allow workers to freely enter into labor contracts without being forced to pay union dues. Therefore, RTW laws shield workers’ First Amendment rights. Under RTW provisions, public workers cannot be forced to join a union, but many do not opt out of union membership because they were not informed of their rights when they first began working in the public sector.
NEFW identifies three specific reforms states should implement to provide workers with additional freedoms. The first reform would require union representation to be periodically voted on and determined by a majority of public employees within a bargaining unit. The second would establish a “Workers’ Choice” policy, allowing non-union employees to represent themselves during the bargaining process. The third reform would allow public employees to have a longer period (or a limitless period) during which they may opt out of union membership.
Union security laws may be popular with union officials, but they are mostly unpopular among employees. In 2017, a national survey revealed 71 percent of union members want to regularly vote on union representation and 77 percent want the option to represent themselves in contract negotiations.
Although the Janus ruling protects public workers’ rights, state legislators should still pass RTW laws to ensure private-sector employees are granted the same right to opt out of union membership. Too many workers are still routinely denied their fundamental rights to free speech and association. The high court’s Janus ruling is not the end of the movement for employee freedom—it is only the beginning.
What We’re Working On
Test Scores Show Delaware Needs Private School Choice Options
This Research & Commentary analyzes the results of Delaware’s Smarter Balanced Assessments, which tested students in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics. The results indicate Delaware should adopt a universal school choice program to remedy the First State’s poorly performing public education system. Overall, only 44 percent of Delaware students reached grade-level proficiency in mathematics, and 54 percent of students tested proficient in ELA. Twenty-eight percent of low-income students tested proficient in math, and only 38 percent reached ELA proficiency.
Energy & Environment
Fulfilling the Promise of American Energy Dominance at AFEC (Guest: Joe Balash)
In this episode of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Joe Balash explains how the Trump administration is unleashing the American energy sector. For example, Balash discusses how the Trump administration is allowing federal lands to be used for oil and gas development. He also details efforts to roll back regulations that were prematurely shutting down coal power plants across the country.
Budget & Tax
State Lottery Would Be a Poor Revenue Source for Mississippi
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines the possibility of a Mississippi state lottery to fund infrastructure projects. “Instead of creating a new discriminatory tax through a state lottery, Mississippi should focus on tax reforms that lower rates, put dollars back into the pockets of taxpayers, and encourage government efficiency by placing reasonable limits on spending,” wrote Glans.
The Certificate of Need Health Care Monopoly (Guest: Dr. Gajendra Singh)
Do certificate of need (CON) laws allow hospitals to function as monopolies, limiting health care supply and raising health care costs? In this episode of the Heartland Daily Podcast, Sarah Lee, the managing editor of Health Care News, speaks with Dr. Gajendra Singh, who recently filed a lawsuit challenging North Carolina’s CON laws.
From Our Free-Market Friends
Spending Restraint Would Save Oklahoma Taxpayers Billions
Oklahoma’s 2018 budget is expected to break the bank yet again, and expenditures have increased over the past seven years. Joel Griffith of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs argues the Sooner State should adopt a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” constitutional amendment that would tie spending growth to inflation and population growth. Additional spending would need to be approved by a supermajority of taxpayers.
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