- - Thursday, October 2, 2014

No one should ever be forced to financially support an organization that they fundamentally disagree with. That is one of the great things about this country. We all have freedom of speech, and if we want, we all have the freedom to join a union and pay union dues.

However, in 23 states and Washington, D.C., government workers can be forced to join a union and have mandatory dues deducted from their paychecks. It used to be that government unions existed to protect public employees, but they have morphed into massive political organizations that seem more concerned with filling their own wallets and currying favors with the political elite.

How did this happen?

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In simple terms, the unions became more and more powerful because collective bargaining laws allowed them to. Once that power was given to them, they would do anything to keep it. Just look at what happen in Wisconsin three years ago.

Even our 32nd president knew that collective bargaining would never work in the public sector.

“All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service,” Franklin Roosevelt wrote in 1937. The reason it does not work in government is because collective bargaining forms a viscous circle that only helps the union bosses and politicians.

Government unions donate to political campaigns. Those politicians get elected. The politicians then give the unions what they want – typically at a high cost to taxpayers. After soaking said taxpayers, the unions then turn around and donate more to the politicians, continuing the vicious circle.

While more and more public employees are forced to join unions, whether they want to or not, the taxpayers that are paying the bills never get a seat at the table.

To end this corrupt system, states must reform collective bargaining and end forced unionization of government workers. While public safety workers in Wisconsin still have the privilege to collectively bargain, almost every other government employee has the freedom to choose whether they want to be in a union.

Not surprisingly, many have decided to leave their unions since Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican, signed Act 10 into law in 2011. In fact, more than 80 teachers’ unions disbanded last year after failing to get a majority of the vote in annual recertification elections and about 70 percent of the state’s AFSCME members left the union since Mr. Walker’s reforms took effect.

If Wisconsin was able to pass these reforms – the state that first allowed government unions to collectively bargain – then any state should be able to accomplish it.

Union membership has been dropping for years. In states that still force public employees to be in a union, members have even found ways to become agency fee payers so they avoid paying for the political spending of their union. In many states, that can save workers hundreds of dollars a year.

However, if the state reformed collective bargaining like Wisconsin did, workers that choose to leave their union could save more than $1,000 a year in dues. In some cases, even more.

Not only can individual government workers save big, the taxpayers will finally have a seat at the table to decide how their money is spent. Since the reforms went through in Wisconsin, taxpayers have saved $3 billion. That is an average savings of $1,300 for every household in the Dairy State.

There are quite a few states that could follow in the footsteps of Wisconsin, but one that quickly comes to mind is Illinois. Unions have become especially powerful in this state, leading to teachers’ strikes in 2012 because the mayor of Chicago made the daring move to ask for small concessions during a budget crunch.

In a state marred by exploding pension debt and the tax increases to match, the stage is set for collective bargaining reform. Wisconsin taxpayers’ $3 billion in savings continues to grow every day. That means each day other states like Illinois refuse to reform their systems, more taxpayer dollars are going down the drain.

It shouldn’t be up to powerful union bosses to decide the direction of a state, it should be up to taxpayers. And for those who work for the government, they should be given the choice on what agenda they support, not forced to financially back an organization that may not have their best interests at heart.

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