- - Thursday, August 20, 2015

It may be one of the best-kept secrets in the workforce. No matter where someone lives – in a right-to-work state or not – all workers have the freedom to leave their union and opt-out of paying at least a portion of monthly dues.

The reason this is one of the best-kept secrets is that it keeps the power in the hands of the union bosses and out of the hands of the dedicated workers. However, all across the country this week, workers are finally being given a voice – a voice that will stand up for their individual freedoms.

Aug. 16-22 is National Employee Freedom Week. It celebrates people like Kristi Lacroix and her freedom to choose whether or not she wants to be in a union and pay costly monthly dues.

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Kristi is a teacher from Kenosha, Wisconsin. And before Gov. Scott Walker’s historic public sector collective-bargaining reforms, she wanted to leave her union, but she couldn’t – or so she thought.

She found out workers do not have to pay for a union’s political activities. This is known as becoming an agency fee payer. Employees that decide to go this route only have to pay for the administrative and bargaining costs – not the excessive costs associated with running television ads for the union bosses’ political friends.

And luckily for Kristi, Wisconsin went a step further in 2011 and 2015. First public sector workers were freed of compulsory dues and forced unionization. Then, earlier this year, Wisconsin became the 25th right-to-work state in the country.

Now every worker in the Dairy State can make the decision about union representation that is best for them and their family. Wisconsin is not alone. Employees in states like Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada and Oklahoma all have the same options.

In fact, that is how National Employee Freedom Week formed. The Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) – a free-market think tank in Las Vegas – ran an educational campaign in 2012 for teachers in Clark County about their right to leave the union.

In a stunning success, hundreds of teachers filed with the union to leave. The next year, NPRI decided to take the effort to the national level.

Today, more than 100 different organizations in 42 states are sponsors of Employee Freedom Week. Even with a large national effort, many union households are still unaware of their rights, however.

According to recent polling, nearly 40 percent of union households do not know they have the right to leave their union without the fear of losing their job or any other penalty.

That is why Employee Freedom Week, and its growth, is so important. Workers all across the country need to be aware of their options – because we all know the union bosses are not going to tell them.

And we know why.

Once workers are made aware of their rights, many choose to leave the union. In Wisconsin, the largest teachers’ union has seen a drop in membership from nearly 100,000 before Mr. Walker’s collective bargaining reforms to about 40,000 today.

When forced unionization is no longer an option, people find better – and most of the time cheaper – alternatives to the union. For teachers, those options include the American Association of Educators or the Christian Educators Association International. Both offer liability insurance and training for about $200 a year – far less than most union dues.

To find out more about the rights you have in your own state, visit EmployeeFreedomWeek.com and join the ever-growing crowd of workers who found out how they can leave their union.

Disclosure: The writer’s employer, The John K. MacIver Institute for Public Policy, is a sponsor of National Employee Freedom Week.

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