On Labor Day, we celebrate the accomplishments of American workers.
But every year, union officials representing just over 6.1% of private-sector workers make the day about themselves, using the occasion to demand more government-granted powers over the very workers the holiday is supposed to celebrate and who union officials claim to “represent.”
First and foremost, union bosses seek the power to force workers to pay union dues to get or keep a job. That’s why they vehemently oppose Right to Work laws, which make union membership and financial support voluntary.
A nationwide Right to Work repeal is the signature provision of the so-called “PRO-Act,” which Big Labor lobbyists have been relentlessly promoting this past year.
But despite union bosses’ attempts to hijack the holiday to push for more coercion under the banner of workers’ rights, there are still many reasons to celebrate.
For starters, workers in the public sector are building off their victory in Janus v. AFSCME, a 2018 Supreme Court decision that effectively brought Right to Work protections to all government workers by ruling compulsory union membership in the public sector violates the First Amendment.
Union officials have tried to find ways around the Janus decision, so they can keep forcing public sector workers to pay union dues or fees. They threw up arbitrary roadblocks to cut dues payments, telling workers they must wait until a so-called “escape period” rolled around.
Some “escape periods” lasted only a few days a year, and if workers missed their window, they’d have to wait an entire year for another chance.
Chicago educators Ifeoma Nkemdi and Joanne Troesch refused to cave to this union tomfoolery, insisting they could exercise their First Amendment Janus rights at any time. They sued the Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago school board demanding the union’s “escape period” scheme be abolished.
With help from the same National Right to Work Foundation attorney who argued and won the Janus case, the teachers appealed to the Supreme Court. Sixteen states and 4 separate legal foundations filed amicus briefs supporting the educators’ petition, which the Supreme Court is set to take up in October.
The educators are riding the momentum from a historic decade of wins against compulsory unionism. Since 2012, five states – Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Kentucky – passed Right to Work protections, ensuring union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary.
Right to Work laws are overwhelmingly popular. Poll after poll shows that at least 8 in 10 Americans oppose forced union dues and affiliation.
In addition to protecting workers’ choice, the Right to Work comes with economic benefits.
An analysis of government data by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research found that in 2019, the last year for which household income data is currently available, the cost of living-adjusted after-tax mean income for households in Right to Work states was over $4,300 higher than household incomes of forced-unionism states.
The same study found that the number of people employed in Right to Work states grew by 11.0% from 2010 to 2020, more than quadruple the increase (2.4%) forced-unionism states had over the same period. Protecting the Right to Work not only respects individual choices but also rewards workers with economic opportunity.
Unfortunately, union officials continue to resist. Rather than embrace voluntary unionism, they use their political leverage to expand their coercive powers while systematically blocking workers from exercising their newly recognized rights.
This Labor Day, let’s celebrate the strides made by workers seeking to free themselves from union coercion and reject the self-serving arguments made by union bosses who speak of workers’ rights but only want more power for themselves.
• Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and National Right to Work Committee.