In the workplace, unions ditch democracy for dictatorships

Ashley Johnson

February 3, 2016

By Ashley Johnson

In the United States, every four years we give our stamp of approval to the president or vote him out. We approve House members every two years. Senators every six. It’s a principle that we, as Americans, fiercely defend and love: ballot voting.

Can you imagine the outrage that would ensue if the political class was to suddenly suspend all elections so they could remain in power?

And yet, that’s essentially what teacher unions are doing to their membership right here in Nevada.

To be established as an exclusive bargaining agent, a labor union only needs a majority vote initially by those it claims to represent. NRS 288.160 states that the union must provide a “verified membership list showing that it represents a majority of the employees in a bargaining unit, and if the employee organization is recognized by the local government employer, it shall be the exclusive bargaining agent of the local government employees in that bargaining unit.”

And just like that, it becomes the exclusive bargaining agent — presumably to remain so as long as it has majority support.

But what really happens if the majority of members no longer support the union?

Theoretically, the union would lose its privilege of being the employees’ exclusive representative. However, this rarely if ever happens. Unions know well how to avoid any risk of losing their grip on power, no matter how their members feel.

Simply don’t hold a vote.

Nevada law only requires a vote once — when the union is first established. Because of this, unions never feel the need to validate themselves with another vote. After all, why risk decertification if you don’t have to?

Consequently, almost no current Nevada teachers ever actually voted to select their current union.

Out of the 19,637 teachers with seniority in Clark County only two actually voted for or against the Clark County Education Association as bargaining agent.

In Washoe County, one lone teacher out of the county’s 3,979 current teachers voted to be represented by the Washoe Education Association.

In both of these districts, essentially an entire generation of teachers never even had the opportunity to choose their union representation.

Elko County, with the state’s newest teacher union, has the least bad record in Nevada: 171 of its 657 current teachers actually voted for their union.

Five of the state’s county school districts had no teacher who’d voted for the district union:

Making matters worse, unions intentionally make it difficult to drop membership by sneaking the drop period into the middle of summer, when the last thing many teachers want to think about is school. Until recently, many members were not even aware that they can drop their union membership.

Given the growing dissatisfaction in union ranks, coupled with dwindling membership, it’s not surprising unions have no interest in allowing a vote. Declining membership has been quite enough of a struggle for union leaders — risking their grip on power by letting some genuine democracy into the workplace could very well be too much for them to handle.

Unions claim to be the voice of the workers they represent. Unions claim to provide invaluable services to their members. Unions claim to care about the wellbeing of workers. So why do they make it so hard for their members to have a say in the process?

A call for a re-certification is long overdue.

Americans love the power of the vote. Let’s quit making unions the exception.

Ashley Johnson, contributing associate to NPRI.