Within days of signing legislation protecting the rights of public employees, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was sued twice by the state’s most powerful public sector unions. While attorneys battled in courts of law, those running the state’s largest teacher union appealed to the court of public opinion. Union executives claimed DeSantis’s reforms would destabilize educators’ job security and defund public education.

This Labor Day marks the end of a busy season for labor legislation nationwide. This year, 20 state legislatures enacted 34 laws governing public sector unions — roughly the number of measures passed in the previous two years combined.

The Florida law, for example, protects the rights of teachers and other public employees. It requires unions to notify members of their rights, including their right not to join the union. Members now sign a state-created document acknowledging their understanding of these rights. The law requires unions disclose the total dues collected and union executive salaries. And when employees want to terminate their membership, unions must respect that decision and process the request as soon as possible.

The new law also ends the state’s role in collecting membership dues for the union, something many other states have already done. Finally, unions must demonstrate their membership rate is at least 60 percent or undergo reelection. The law doesn’t apply to first-responders.

Other states enacted similar employee-friendly reforms. Arkansas and Tennessee ended payroll deductions for teachers’ membership dues. Indiana restricted teacher union executives’ ability to dictate curricula, teaching methods or student discipline. Kentucky stopped collecting dues, personal information and political contributions for public sector unions. And Missouri extended labor protections to emergency medical system personnel.

These reforms aren’t necessarily harmful to unions and don’t touch private sector unions. Most of these reforms require public sector unions, which hold state-sanctioned monopolies over their workplaces, to provide good customer service. A more responsive, transparent union should be an improvement for union executives, the government and union members alike.

Some reforms — ending payroll deduction of union dues and Florida’s more frequent reelections, in particular — push union executives to work harder to recruit members and convince them of the union’s value. These reforms reward union executives who communicate with and serve their members well.

Yet union executives lobbied hard against these reforms. State by state, union executives insisted on a false choice: Lawmakers must choose between protecting workers’ rights and having strong unions. The two wants are, of course, not mutually exclusive.

Union executives focus their efforts on state legislatures where some lawmakers, especially those who receive significant campaign donations from unions, willingly buy into the union’s false-choice narrative. In such states, union executives have successfully advanced dangerous, broad constitutional amendments mirroring the measure approved last year in Illinois that gives unions super-legislative authority without any protections for individual employees.

As a result, union executives got their way in many other states, but at a significant cost for individual employees. In Hawaii, public sector unions can legally extort public employees who decline to join the union by refusing to represent them in a workplace dispute with the government. Illinois made it easier to unionize charter schools. Maine now requires the government to hand over employees’ personal information to union executives. Maryland made it easier for public sector unions to organize, scrapping traditional employee safeguards such as secret ballot and in-person elections.

The irony is that union executives don’t need any more power in these states, which are already heavily unionized. In these states, public sector unions have become a de facto extension of the Democratic Party.

Good people across the country may believe that handing more power to public sector union executives will fix teacher shortages or improve ineffective government programs. Instead, these good people should reflect this Labor Day and ask themselves whether public sector unions have lived up to these promises over the past 50 years. They should also ask how we can hold union executives accountable and improve how public sector unions work.

Unfortunately, anyone trying to advance ideas to improve public sector unions soon discovers union executives aren’t interested. Public sector union executives will go to war to ensure they keep their power — even at the expense of the employees they purportedly represent.

David Osborne is the senior fellow of labor policy with the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank.

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *