- - Sunday, August 16, 2015


The battle over labor unions and employee rights is shaping up to be a key part of the race for 2016.

As some Republican candidates tout their records of reforming labor and expanding employee rights (especially in the public sector), other Democratic candidates look to enable some of unions’ most prominent abuses, including the abusive “card check” organizing procedure. As labor unions and their political allies continue to press more employees into unionizing, campaigns like this week’s National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW), which educates union members about their rights to leave their union, are even more important.

The continued power of Big Labor — an $8 billion industry — and its insistence on taking cash out of employees’ paychecks has made NEFW attract a record number of participants this year. This week, 97 groups in 42 states will be leading a grass-roots education campaign to inform employees of their rights regarding funding unions and the Big Labor agenda.

Evidently such education is important. According to a recent national poll, 39 percent of union household members are unaware that they can opt-out of paying a portion of their union dues being used for politics without penalty. For the roughly 40 percent of union households who consistently vote Republican and other dissenters who see their paychecks shrinking to promote labor’s agenda they don’t agree with, being able to exercise this First Amendment right can make a big difference in their financial and moral well-being.

So what rights do union members have? All employees — regardless of state — have rights to opt-out from union membership and to refrain from paying at least a portion of their dues without penalty. In the 25 right-to-work states, an employee can refrain from union membership and paying any union fees. The Supreme Court has also affirmed rights of employees to refrain from union membership and refrain from paying political dues assessments anywhere in the country.

These are rights Big Labor doesn’t want its members exercising. They don’t even want them to know about the options. NEFW provides union members with the information, paperwork, and timelines necessary to overcome Labor’s bureaucratic defense.

As we look ahead to 2016, we can reasonably assume the left’s presidential nominee will receive the support of union bosses. Historically, FEC records show union PACs contribute about 90 percent to Democrats, while dues-funded political spending of upwards of $100 million every year builds the liberal infrastructure that supports left-wing candidates and causes. Efforts to chip away at this funding will not be taken lightly.

If the Obama administration, which has used its Executive Branch appointments to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to empower union organizers at the expense of employee rights is any indication, this labor investment in the Democrats could pay off in spades. Unions spent tens of millions — then-SEIU President Andy Stern said his union alone spent “$60.7 million to be exact” — to elect President Obama. As a result, the president’s appointees to the NLRB and the Department of Labor have been fervently loyal to the Big Labor agenda, cutting organizing election times, threatening right-to-work laws, and forcing employees to hand over personal private information to union organizers, among other gifts.

With this in mind, Americans need this week’s bold message of employee freedom now more than ever. There are several current proposals that would expand upon the NEFW coalition’s efforts. The Hatch-Price Employee Rights Act, introduced into Congress last month, would make the political portion of union dues an opt-in process, rather than the current convoluted opt-out system that varies in its particulars union-to-union. The proposal receives very strong support — over 80 percent of Americans back it in national polling.

This National Employee Freedom Week, take the time to learn your rights in the workplace, and if you’re not a union member, take a moment to recognize how Big Labor tramples on the rights of others to further its liberal agenda. As the Obama administration ups its efforts to unionize more of the population to funnel more dues to its allies, you might soon find yourself needing to exercise them.

Rick Berman is president of Berman and Co., a Washington public affairs firm.

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