Conservatives Push Right-To-Work Laws As Unions Hemorrhage Thousands Of Members

REUTERS/Leah Millis

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Tim Pearce Energy Reporter
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The Mackinac Center, a free-market think tank, is stepping up efforts to promote right-to-work policies and regulations nearly a year after the Supreme Court banned union agency fees in the public sector.

Mackinac is expanding its operations from informing public sector union workers and fee payers of their rights secured by the June 2018 decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The free-market think tank launched a new campaign Tuesday, called Workers for Opportunity, to lobby state governors, lawmakers and regulators to adopt further right-to-work laws and protections.

The Supreme Court ruling in Janus found that agency fees – union fees paid by employees as a prerequisite to holding a certain job – violated public sector workers’ free speech rights.

The ruling initiated a furious struggle by right-to-work groups to inform union members and fee-payers of their right to drop union representation. Union bosses began fighting to keep employees on their membership rolls and limit the loss of revenue.

Just informing workers of their newly secured rights is a “shortsighted view,” Mackinac Center vice president of communications Lindsay Killen told The Daily Caller News Foundation. (RELATED: West Coast Union A Quarter Of Its Members Since SCOTUS Decision On Forced Dues, Filings Show)

Mackinac and other conservative groups, such as the Freedom Foundation operating on the West Coast, have made substantial gains in messaging union members and fee-payers. Tens of thousands have stopped paying union dues. The Freedom Foundation estimates its efforts in California, Oregon and Washington have cost unions roughly $36 million.

“Absolutely, we should be focused on informing public employees of their rights across the country … but we need a place for these people to go afterwards. A lot of these people are disenfranchised,” Killen said. “They left their unions for a reason. They left because they didn’t agree with the policies the unions were pushing or the environment that the unions forced upon them.”

Mackinac is operating in more than a dozen states, five of which involve direct operations with legislators or executive officials, to build out from the Janus victory against union power.

Mark Janus addresses the news media outside of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

Mark Janus addresses the news media outside of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, U.S., February 26, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The Workers for Opportunity campaign has four aims: Expand transparency and access to public union membership rolls, implement more right-to-work laws, ensure union members are able to vote periodically to re-certify or cut off their unions and codify the right of union members to positively affirm that they want to be in a union.

Unions are using their own strategies to maintain union membership and dues. Some unions have taken greater care to work for their members to convince them to stay. Others are using more devious methods, such as instituting “window periods” controlling when members can opt out of a union or not.

“Just recently we heard of legislation in Kansas that would require public employees to contribute to their union as a charitable organization whether or not they choose to be a member of the union,” Killen told TheDCNF. “The unions are getting creative.”

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