Public Union Not the Right Fit? You have Options
A national effort to let public-sector union workers know about alternatives to being a little cog in the machinery of Big Labor occurs later this month.
National Employee Freedom Week, to take place Aug. 14-20, began a decade ago to let Las Vegas-area teachers know they weren’t required to belong to a union. It has since expanded its outreach to all government-service union employees.
Goals include empowering workers by informing them of their options, sharing alternatives to union membership that may better serve their needs and providing the resources needed to help individuals make the choice that’s best for them.
Public-sector workers are often locked in by rigid “escape clauses” that limit their ability to opt out to only 15 or 20 days each year. And public unions remain entrenched regardless of how workers feel about the services they offer or the politics they practice.
Many members recognize that public-sector unions are narrowly focused on what benefits their own organizations at the expense of what’s good for everyone, Philip K. Howard, the founder of good governance organization Campaign for Common Good, wrote last year.
“Public employees represent almost 15 percent of the work force, probably the largest organized voting bloc,” he wrote in USA Today. “For more than 50 years, generations of political leaders have promised whatever it would take to get their support, including shields against accountability and rich pensions and benefits.”
National Employee Freedom Week is led by Nevada Policy and the Association of American Educators. Since its inception, more than 100 national and state-level groups have taken worked to inform government workers of their First Amendment rights and to reinforce that they don’t have to belong to unions that don’t represent their interests.
Overall union membership has slipped over the past two years. In Nevada, 12.2 percent of individuals employed in the Silver State belonged to unions. That’s down sharply from two years earlier, when 14.6 percent of employees belonged to unions in Nevada, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
Nationally, union membership dropped to 10.3 percent of the nation’s workforce last year. That’s a drop of nearly 50 percent from 1983, when the Bureau of Labor Statistics began tracking union membership.
Still, public-sector unions are very adept at throwing their weight around.
“Union contracts have long tails, tying the hands of successive political leaders,” Howard added. “Their political power also is different from that held by other interest groups; political leaders are powerless without their cooperation.”
In Nevada, organized labor’s disproportionate influence over state politics has resulted in a patchwork of laws and policies which put the interests of government-sector unions over the constitutional rights of individual workers.
The above sounds suspiciously like a massive conflict of interest on the part of the government unions. It’s a conflict that hurts the very people government unions are supposed to serve: the public.