American Federation of Labor founder Samuel Gompers’s famous adage that “No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion” is as relevant as ever this Labor Day.
You see, today’s union officials consider compulsion the key element of their agenda — and millions of American workers are forced to pay dues and fees to a union in order to work and provide for their families.
And no worker is out of bounds for the union chiefs, as even millions of public servants — police officers, firefighters and teachers — have to pay dues or fees to a union for the privilege to work. In fact, a majority of government employees nationwide work under monopoly unionism, and the union bosses are trying to increase these ranks through any means necessary.
Take Wisconsin. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and his allies passed measures that sharply limit government union officials’ monopoly bargaining power over Badger State public workers and taxpayers by protecting the right to work — that is, the right to choose whether or not to affiliate with a union — of most government employees and banning automatic forced-union-dues seizures from public employees’ paychecks.
Angry union militants stormed the Wisconsin capitol in an attempt to thwart the governor’s efforts to pass those reforms. After losing the legislative (and electoral) fight, public-sector union bosses are fighting tooth and nail to protect their forced-dues powers in the courts.
In their legal brief, union officials admitted that under the reforms public-sector union bosses would lose at least a quarter of their forced-union-dues revenues. For example, Wisconsin teachers’ union bosses would not be able to force independent-minded teachers to pay $5.4 million in forced dues and $375,000 toward union boss’s political activism.
Fortunately, courageous public servants like 13-year Kenosha-area teacher Kristi Lacroix, with free legal assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation, are seeking to protect their right to refrain from union affiliation in order to work. As Lacroix said, “I’m not against the union; I just don’t want to have to join it in order to teach.”
However, union bosses faced with declining membership in the private sector are increasingly looking for new ways to force government employees throughout the country to pad their pockets in order to get or keep jobs.
In Ohio, 15 public school teachers filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the Ohio Education Association (OEA) for illegally forcing them to pay union dues toward the union’s political activism and electioneering. All while the OEA union machine gears up its efforts to defeat recent public-sector reforms in the Buckeye State that give teachers the right to opt out of forced dues payments.
The United States Supreme Court will soon review a U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that effectively forces non-union California state employees to fund union political activism in order to work. Eight California civil servants and Right to Work Foundation attorneys are challenging a California State Employee Association (CSEA) “special assessment” issued in 2005 to raise money from all state employees for a union political fund, regardless of their membership status. Non-union employees were not given a chance to opt out.
It is incredible that so many of our public servants have to pay a private organization just for the privilege to work in the public sector.
And despite the resulting budget deficits and a public that demands greater accountability from their government, Big Labor operatives have made their position clear: No concessions, no compromise and no surrender.
As we celebrate the hard work and ingenuity of the American people this Labor Day, let us also renew our will to fight against the coercion these workers face because of forced unionism.
Mark Mix is President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.