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Bad Week for Teachers Unions

These days, the teachers unions have landed on the wrong side of judges, teachers, the general public and just about everyone else whose lives they touch.

Seems like the teachers unions are getting it from all sides these days. In a Wall Street Journal piece, the writers note that the percentage of elementary and secondary teachers who are union members is down about 20 percent since 1988. But as private and charter schools proliferate and the right-to-work movement grows, the last 26 years will look like the good old days.

Big Apple Kerfuffle

In response to the death of Eric Garner while in New York Police Department custody, United Federation of Teachers command central decided to join forces with Al Sharpton in blaming the police. However, New York City teachers responded by giving UFT president Michael Mulgrew a one-finger salute, and on the first day of school last week teachers all over the city wore pro-cop T-shirts. This independent streak was way over the top for Boss Mulgrew, whose union emailed a brief warning, “…as public employees, one must remain objective at all times.”

Teachers union members remain objective?!! WHAT!!! This followed UFT’s sponsorship of an Al Sharpton rally in support of Mike Brown, who died while in police custody in Ferguson, MO.

Now, how teachers should respond to non-education-related community events is a discussion for another day; the issue here is the union’s hypocrisy. But then again, Mulgrew has always shot from the hip … and as often as not, the bullet has wound up piercing his shoe. Most recently, despite teacher misgivings with Common Core, the union president decided that the standards were worthy. And at the American Federation of Teachers convention last month, in classic thug style, he closed with these pearls,

If someone takes something from me, I’m going to grab it right back out of their cold, twisted, sick hands and say it is mine! You do not take what is mine! And I’m going to punch you in the face and push you in the dirt because this is the teachers! These are our tools and you sick people need to deal with us and the children that we teach. Thank you very much!

If they ever decide to recast Goodfellas, Mulgrew is a shoo-in for the Joe Pesci role. (Extreme profanity alert.)

Michigan Shenanigans

After Michigan went right-to-work in 2012, the Michigan Education Association decided to play hardball. Most teachers didn’t know that the only period they could resign from the union was when most of them weren’t paying attention to school or union matters – in August. Some teachers sent in their resignation notice before the union-mandated allotted time and thought they’d legitimately opted out and stopped paying dues. However, they were soon faced with threats that unless they paid up, the union would do its best to damage their credit ratings. But the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation took the teachers’ side and brought suit against the union. Then, just last Tuesday administrative law judge Julia Stern recommended that the “ Employment Relations Commission order the Michigan Education Association to no longer limit school employees to leaving the union solely in August of each year. She said the law that took effect last year incorporated a federal law interpreted to give public employees the ability to leave their union anytime.”

Furious with the decision, the union went into spin-mode to divert attention from it, triumphantly pointing to the fact that only 5,000 teachers (out of 110,000 total) had resigned during the August window. But as Mike Antonucci notes, the bigger picture is not so rosy. “In 2008-09, the union had 129,000 active members. The latest loss brings that number down to 106,000 – a drop of almost 18 percent.” Also, as more contracts expire, more teachers will have the opportunity to disengage from the union. Additionally, as teachers see that the world of their non-unionized colleagues does not come to an end without Big Daddy, many will realize that the $1,000+ dues they pay on a yearly basis could be much better spent elsewhere.

Sophistry Vergara

Hardly a surprise, but immediately following Judge Rolf Treu’s final decision in the Vergara case, which affirmed his original one, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers and Governor Jerry Brown (under pressure from his biggest political backers – the unions) filed an appeal. In a dual release, the unions trotted out the usual off-subject malarkey in an attempt to convince people of the evil intent of the suit.

All along it’s been clear to us that this lawsuit is baseless, meritless, and masterminded by self-interested individuals with corporate education reform agendas that are veiled by a proclamation of student interest.

The Vergara ruling makes clear that Judge Treu failed to engage the evidence presented in court by education experts and school superintendents who testified that teacher rights are not impediments to well-run schools and districts.

He also failed to take into account the impact of underfunding, poverty, growing inequality, and lack of decent jobs in the communities surrounding our schools….

… this ruling doesn’t address any of the real solutions to problems facing public education, solutions such as adequate funding, peer assistance and review programs for struggling teachers, and lower class sizes.

Blah, blah, blah.

While this kind of union spin has traditionally been successful, the general public at long last has become hip to it. In an Education Next  poll released in August concerning the issue of tenure – a major part of the Vergara suit,

… Survey respondents favor ending tenure by a 2-to-1 ratio. By about the same ratio, the public also thinks that if tenure is awarded, it should be based in part on how well the teacher’s students perform in the classroom. Only 9% of the public agrees with current practice in most states, the policy of granting teachers tenure without taking student performance into account.

Fair Share Flim-Flam Fades

Every year around Labor Day, Gallup polls Americans on their attitudes toward labor unions. This year a question was added about right-to-work laws, and the responses were not good news for the forced-union crowd. As Mike Antonucci writes,

The poll finds 82% of Americans agreeing that ‘no American should be required to join any private organization, like a labor union, against his will,’ a position advanced by right-to-work proponents. Pro-union forces partly oppose right-to-work laws because of the ‘free-rider’ problem, with non-union workers benefitting as much as union workers when unions negotiate pay and benefit increases with employers. But by 64% to 32%, Americans disagree that workers should ‘have to join and pay dues to give the union financial support’ because ‘all workers share the gains won by the labor union.’

The teachers unions are starting to remind me of a man at sea flailing away for help, but the courts, the general public and even many of their own members are not not throwing out a life raft. Perhaps Mr. Mulgrew needs to start breaking some legs. Nothing else seems to be working.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

The United Auto Workers on the Skids?

Summary: it’s been a long, slow slide for the United Auto Workers, which hit its peak in the early 1950s. Defeated in a critical unionization election in the South and facing a critical change in state law in its home base in Michigan, the UAW has responded to the challenge by raising dues and by staying the course on policy and leadership. 

Things have not gone well at Solidarity House recently, and may be getting worse.

When the headquarters of the United Auto Workers was dedicated on June 9, 1951, news accounts called it “America’s most up-to-date union headquarters . . . Streamlined and spacious but not plush, the four story brick and sandstone structure is nestled among swank hotel apartment houses overlooking the Detroit river.” It was said that the union’s “nerve center” would be “the envy of many top industry executives.” The UAW was riding high, and it seemed appropriate that the UAW headquarters’ three-acre site had once been the estate of the late Edsel Ford, the son of Henry Ford and himself the president of Ford Motor Company.

The website Detroit1701, which celebrates the city’s history, describes the headquarters as “a very significant site, perhaps the most symbolically significant site, in the history of the labor movement in the United States. . . . Solidarity House was built in a very desirable location on Detroit’s riverfront at a time when the United Auto Workers were still celebrating their very favorable victory in a struggle with General Motors, Chrysler and Ford.”

That victory included the famous “Treaty of Detroit” with GM and favorable-to-the-UAW deals with the other automakers. Long-terms contracts protected the companies against strikes, while the union received medical insurance and improved cost-of-living adjustments at GM, employer-funded pensions at Chrysler, supplementary unemployment benefits at Ford, and other perks.

UAW membership exceeded one million, at a time when the U.S. population was 150 million. Within two years of the Solidarity House dedication, total labor union membership in the U.S. as a share of the workforce would hit an all-time high, roughly one worker in three. Back then, Detroit was the fifth-largest city in the United States, and the wealthiest.

How times have changed—for the city that’s synonymous with the U.S. automobile industry, for the auto industry itself, and for the union that was once the nation’s largest!

Bad times

UAW membership peaked in 1979 at 1.5 million. In 2011, the UAW hit a modern-day low of approximately 355,000 members, and there was a slight recovery to about 391,400 in the union’s latest filings with the Department of Labor. UAW’s “annual dues collected were down more than 40 percent to $115 million from 2006 to 2012, as the union’s ranks fell by 30 percent,” reports the Associated Press. The union’s strike fund fell from roughly $1 billion in 2006 to about $627 million at latest count.

And then there’s the recent passage of a Right to Work law in Michigan. Next year, the UAW will no longer be able to get its Michigan members fired on the grounds that they haven’t paid their union dues. Some UAW members in Michigan already have rights under the new law, but the major effects of the law will occur when contracts expire with the Big Three auto companies. At that point, auto workers will finally have a choice of whether to pay UAW dues. As the contracts expire, the UAW will also face the prospect of strikes for which it may be ill-prepared.

Meanwhile, UAW members are forced to spend big on a bloated bureaucracy. Financial reports submitted to the Department of Labor show large, highly paid staffs at the national headquarters. At the national level, the UAW has 16 officers and 783 employees; fully 440 of the employees (56 percent) make six-figure salaries. In addition, 15 of the 16 officers make more than $100,000 per year.

At its recent convention, the union did eliminate one region (merging the offices in Flint and Grand Rapids) and reduce the number of vice presidents from four to three, but given the continued large overhead at the national office, those moves were seen as largely symbolic.

And headquarters overhead is not the only evidence union spending is out of control. The website LaborUnionReport noted in 2011:

According to the UAW’s financial reports, at the end of 2010, the United Auto Workers’ headquarters brought in more than $274 million from its local unions and other income, but it spent $275 million—including nearly $10.5 million on political activities and lobbying and sent over $3 million to the AFL-CIO.

Given all those factors—

  • The UAW’s current low membership (down 74 percent since 1979, even as U.S. population increased more than 40 percent)
  • The 37 percent decline in its strike fund
  • The prospect that many autoworkers, seeing little or no benefit to union membership, will refuse to pay UAW dues—now that Michigan has a Right to Work law protecting them from being fired for making that choice
  • The failure of the UAW’s massive effort to penetrate the South [about which, more below], and
  • The continued presence of a huge, wasteful bureaucracy

—what big step did the UAW take at its 36th Annual Constitutional Convention in June?

Declaring the union’s first dues increase since 1967, a hike of 25 percent.

Skyrocketing dues

The dues increase comes at a time when members in the auto industry are split in two: current workers who make a full rate of $28 an hour with generous benefits; and entry-level “second-tier” workers who earn an initial $15.78 an hour, increasing to $19.28.

UAW officers are trying to link the two-tier system and its recent failure to expand organizing. Norwood Jewell, one of the three UAW vice presidents, told Reuters, “If we don’t organize [non-union plants in the South] and bring them up to our standard, we’re never going be able to totally eliminate the second tier [of wages].”

The union needs to replenish and renew funds to further its organizing efforts in the South. While the dues increase will raise about $45 million annually for the strike fund, the UAW is spending big on new organizing drives, using money from the strike fund and its Emergency Operations Fund. As the Michigan online news service MLive.com reported, as members approved the dues increase, they also voted

  • to transfer $85 million from the “Emergency Operations Fund” to a newly created VEBA trust [Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, a trust fund for employee early retirement benefits]
  • to transfer $25 million from the Strike Fund to the “International Union General Fund” in June
  • to allow leaders to use up to $60 million from the Strike Fund over the next four years to support major organizing drives or other initiatives intended to increase UAW membership
  • and to take other smaller financial measures related to dues

During the debate at the convention over the dues hike, UAW Local 140 President Mark Dickow claimed that “the UAW is the only organized union that has not been raised in almost 50 years.”

Actually, although the dues rate has been steady for decades, the actual dues paid by individual members have gone up. That’s because a member’s UAW dues are tied to his or her hourly pay. When a member receives a raise, dues also go up.

The new rate increase, which will take effect in August, raises the number of hours’ pay that a member must turn over to the union, from two hours of salary a month to two and a half hours per month—a 25 percent increase.

Outgoing UAW President Bob King called the argument over the vote to raise dues a “great demonstration of democracy for the UAW.” Yet the vote was taken among only the 1,100 delegates at the convention. The other 390,315 UAW members did not have a direct say. Nor was there a recorded vote at the convention. An initial voice vote was supposedly too close to call, and President King ordered a show of hands. King declared that “the ayes certainly have it.”

“I agree with the dues increase, but I don’t think it’s the time,” Rich Boyer of UAW Local 140 told MLive.com. “This membership is divided. If we increase these dues now and don’t go to the bargaining table and get significant increases in wages, we are in trouble.”

Still, the linkage between the dues hike and the two-tier pay structure is clear, admits Dennis Williams, who was elected to succeed King as UAW president. Williams told Bloomberg News, “The two-tier [wage] system will be in place until we can organize the transnationals,” that is, the automakers that operate in the U.S. but are headquartered in other countries.

Desperate to increase membership and end the bifurcated wage system, the UAW has targeted nonunion Southern auto plants. So far, though, the union has not convinced Southern autoworkers that they need the UAW as much as the UAW needs them.

Defeat in Chattanooga

The UAW’s most significant defeat in recent memory came in February at Volkswagen’s Passat plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was, some say, the UAW’s Gettysburg—its last-ditch effort to snatch a victory, an attempt whose failure makes final defeat inevitable.

If the UAW had succeeded in Chattanooga, the plant would have been the first foreign-owned auto assembly plant in the South to be organized. Most importantly for the UAW, Chattanooga would have been a beachhead to organize the booming, mostly non-unionized Southern auto industry. [For details on the union effort to penetrate the South, see the December 2013 Labor Watch.]

Four years ago, President King vowed to unionize a Southern, foreign-owned plant. Three years ago, he said that, if the UAW couldn’t break into the South, the union’s continued existence was in jeopardy. “If we don’t organize these transnationals, I don’t think there’s a long-term future for the UAW,” he said. “I really don’t.”

The UAW intended to accomplish its breakthrough in the South partly by changing the rules of the game. In December 2011, the union released its “Principles for Fair Union Elections.” Chief among those Principles were card check and other provisions typical of so-called “neutrality agreements.” UAW President King threatened, if a company refused to adhere to the Principles, to “launch a global campaign to brand that company a human-rights violator.”

One of the reasons that prospects for victory were so high in Chattanooga, and the defeat so stinging, was that the company was effectively on the side of the union. On January 27, prior to the vote at the Passat plant, Volkswagen adopted a position of (supposed) neutrality with regard to the UAW. Volkswagen agreed it would not stand up for its workers who opposed joining the UAW—workers who would be outgunned by professional union organizers.

Standard neutrality agreements typically contain three main criteria for the employer:

  1.  A gag order not to talk to their employees about unionization
  2.  Turning over employees’ contact information to the union, including phone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses
  3. An agreement to a card-check election, under which a union can organize the company simply by having employees sign cards indicating their support for unionization. This process replaces the standard secret ballot election procedure administered by National Labor Relations Board. It effectively eliminates the secret ballot, and can lead to deception, coercion, and intimidation of employees by union organizers.

Employers often agree to a neutrality agreement because a union has promised a benefit to the company in return, or the company may be avoiding a threat from the union. Some unions threaten damaging public relations campaigns against a company. These campaigns, known as corporate campaigns, attempt to harm an employer’s business by damaging the reputation of the company or in some cases the personal reputations of the company’s officers, all to exert pressure for the employer to sign a neutrality agreement. (For more on corporate campaigns, see the June 2013 Labor Watch.)

In the Chattanooga fight, the National Labor Relations Board was likewise effectively on the union’s side. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which represented VW workers opposed to unionization, obtained several NLRB e-mails that, the Foundation claimed, brought into question the board’s impartiality regarding the card-check process during the UAW’s organizing efforts at VW.

Apparently a majority of the targeted workers had signed the cards, indicating their support for unionization. But, according to National Right to Work, “Several VW workers filed charges alleging improprieties in the UAW union hierarchy’s card-check process, including getting workers to sign union authorization cards by coercion and misrepresentation and using cards signed too long ago to be legally valid.” To sidestep this controversy, Volkswagen agreed to permit workers to have a secret ballot election, rather than simply declaring the UAW to be the workers’ representative on the basis of the cards.

VW’s accord with the UAW was called a neutrality agreement, but the company did more than simply stay neutral with regard to the prospect of the UAW unionizing its plant. National Right to Work alleged that “Some of those workers also filed a federal charge against the company alleging that statements by German VW officials are illegally coercing their fellow workers to accept UAW monopoly bargaining power over their workplace.”

The company actively assisted union organizers by filing the petition for unionization. This is very rare in labor organizing. Also, by not voicing an opinion, VW helped expedite the election, which denied workers who opposed the UAW time to effectively make their case to their coworkers.

Former NLRB board member John N. Raudabaugh told the website Real Clear Markets that he had “never seen such a quick election.” Workers opposed to the UAW faced even greater difficulty when VW kept anti-UAW employees out of the plant while letting union organizers in.

The public reason for the support of the UAW was that VW hoped to create a German-style “works council,” a joint labor-management board for governing the plant. Volkswagen Chattanooga’s CEO Frank Fischer claimed, “Our works councils are key to our success and productivity.” He said, “Our plant in Chattanooga has the opportunity to create a uniquely American works council, in which the company would be able to work cooperatively with our employees and ultimately their union representatives, if the employees decide they wish to be represented by a union.”

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, pointed to the crossover leadership between Volkswagen and the UAW’s union counterpart in Germany, IG Metall. For example, she wrote, “the deputy chairman of Volkswagen’s German supervisory board is Berthold Huber, chairman of the powerful German labor union IG Metall.”

Peter Schaumber, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board under President George W. Bush, warned that the VW’s German-style works council may be illegal under American labor law, because the  National Labor Relations Act requires

that the employer negotiate terms and conditions of employment with the workers’ union as their exclusive bargaining representative. The German model of dual representation—with an industrywide union required by law and plant-level works councils negotiating workplace terms of employment—is inconsistent with U.S. law.

Schaumber argued that the works council would have been a “company union,” which federal labor law prohibits because a union is supposed to represent workers, and if the company controls it, the union may not have the employees’ best interests at heart. That’s why President Clinton in 1996 vetoed legislation called the Team Act that would have allowed companies to form employee-management teams.  The AFL-CIO commended the veto at the time: “Under the guise of ‘cooperation,’ this damaging and unnecessary piece of legislation would have given management the say-so over who speaks for workers on issues such as wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment—an unfair infringement on employee rights.”

The Chattanooga neutrality agreement included a clause assuring the German car manufacturer that “the UAW would delegate to the Works Council many of the functions and responsibilities ordinarily performed by unions as bargaining representative in the United States.” The agreement went on to state that this works council would help in “maintaining and where possible enhancing the cost advantages and other competitive advantages that [Volkswagen] enjoys relative to its competitors in the United States and North America, including but not limited to legacy automobile manufacturers.”

Workers worried that the union would endanger the plant’s viability and possibly cost them their jobs. They saw how the unions, and politicians backed by the unions, turned the wealthy city of Detroit into a ruin. They didn’t see union membership, with the accompanying dues and bureaucracy, as a good deal. And they worried that, once the union was in place, it would be very difficult to dislodge.

Once a union has successfully organized a worksite, it’s almost impossible to get rid of it, no matter how bad a job it does. That fact is clear from an amazing statistic dug up by James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation: Only seven percent of private-sector union members ever voted to join their union.

In February 2014, autoworkers at the VW plant handed the UAW a bruising defeat, rejecting the union 712 to 626. The UAW compounded its embarrassment by refusing to take no for an answer and spending two months appealing the result.

No Free Speech for you!

The strongest point in the UAW’s appeal of its defeat was that opponent organizations and politicians had interfered in the election process. The UAW claimed that they had done so by speaking out against the union and making promises regarding government-provided financial incentives that the plant, like most such plants, might receive for future expansion.

The idea that labor law or the National Labor Relations Board might limit the free speech of union opponents (but not union supporters) may seem farfetched, but the UAW is correct that employers are strictly limited in what they can say to employees during union organizing election campaigns.

Federal labor law limits an employer’s Free Speech rights after a union files a petition with the NLRB for an election. The law prohibits an employer from threatening, interrogating, promising, or spying on their employees during this time. These actions are known by the acronym “TIPS.”  (Employers can tell their employees what they think unionization would do as long as they do not violate the TIPS restrictions.)

Unions, on the other hand, violate the law only if they verbally threaten or physically assault a worker. In 1996, the NLRB in the case of HCF, Inc. d/b/a Shawnee Manor deemed even threats to be legal if a third party does the threatening on behalf of the union.

Claiming that “interference by politicians and outside special interest groups” skewed the vote, the UAW asked the National Labor Relations Board to throw out the election results. UAW President King complained publicly that the anti-union efforts were coordinated, saying “Whether it was the Koch brothers or it was Grover Norquist or it was Senator [Bob] Corker [R-Tenn.], Governor [Bill] Haslam [R-Tenn.], the leaders of the legislature—all make threats against voting ‘yes’ and promises if people voted ‘no.’” (Norquist is a prominent taxpayer advocate in Washington, D.C., and the Koch brothers are philanthropists who give money to charities and pro-liberty organizations.)

Outside groups and sympathetic politicians did indeed try to educate workers on what would happen if the UAW organized the Chattanooga plant. They were concerned that, because Volkswagen sided with the union, workers would not otherwise hear both sides of the story.

During the NLRB appeal, Senator Corker, a former mayor of Chattanooga, asked the NLRB to “understand and realize the magnitude of what they are going to be deciding and in no way try to muzzle public officials who are community leaders from expressing their point of view.”

The union thought it had a smoking gun when documents leaked to a local TV station showed the Governor had promised $300 million in economic incentives if “works council discussions between the State of Tennessee and VW [were] concluded to the satisfaction of the State of Tennessee.” Governor Haslam responded that the documents weren’t “a threat at all. It was just a statement of reality” and that “any incentive deal that we do has to be approved by the Legislature. And we had that discussion with them all along, that it was going to be much, much more difficult if the union vote happened.”

During the preparation for the NLRB appeal hearing, the UAW sent a wave of subpoenas to those it felt had interfered with the vote. Recipients included Haslam, Corker, and 18 other officials. The UAW went so far as to subpoena an intern working at Norquist’s organization, Americans for Tax Reform.  The union demanded all written communications and other documents concerning the union in the weeks before the vote.

Tennessee Attorney General Robert Cooper fought the subpoenas aimed at Governor Haslam, noting that the requests were “overly broad, unduly burdensome, and seek information that is not relevant or material to the matter under investigation or in question in the proceedings.”

On April 21, though, as participants in the case were gathered in a courtroom in Chattanooga, the UAW sounded retreat. Reuters reported:

The United Auto Workers, surprising even its supporters, on Monday [April 21] abruptly withdrew its legal challenge to a union organizing vote that it lost at a Volkswagen AG plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee in February.

Just an hour before the start of a National Labor Relations Board hearing on the challenge, the union dropped its case, casting a cloud over its long and still unsuccessful push to organize foreign-owned auto plants in the U.S. South.

VW workers due to testify at the hearing were already at the courthouse in downtown Chattanooga when they heard the news, which left lawyers in the hearing room wondering how to proceed.

The union did not explain why it waited until the 11th hour to drop the case, but UAW official Gary Casteel said the decision not to go ahead was made last week. That was when Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, U.S. Senator Bob Corker from Tennessee, and Washington small government activist Grover Norquist said they would ignore subpoenas to attend the hearing, which was to have focused partly on their conduct in the days leading up to the plant workers vote.

“It became obvious to us that they were going to become objectionists and not allow the process to go forward in a transparent way. When that happens, these things can drag on for years,” Casteel said in an interview.

If, in fact, the decision to drop the appeal was made the previous week, the timing of the withdrawal was strange. Lawyers and others working on the case—including, apparently, those on the UAW’s side—had worked over the Easter holidays to prepare for the hearing that never occurred.

The UAW’s decision to drop the appeal did not end the matter. Two left-wing members of Congress, Reps. George Miller (D-Calif.) and John Tierney (D-Mass.) launched their own inquiry into whether “outsiders” tainted the election.  The day the UAW withdrew the suit, King said, “Frankly, Congress is a more effective venue for publicly examining the now well-documented threat,” he said.

Governor Haslam responded to the Miller/Tierney inquiry by noting sardonically that “we got a letter from two Democratic congressmen who are minority members of the House, so…” At that point, the Governor shrugged dismissively.

Bob King: a legacy of failure

Bob King won the UAW presidency four years ago with 97 percent of the vote. He left the union in worse shape than he found it. Some events were set in motion long before his time as president, such as the bankruptcy of General Motors and Chrysler and the two-tier wage system (he was at the negotiating table as a vice president when it was negotiated, but he was not president). Still, King did preside over disastrous failures of his own making.

One of the key strategists in the fight against the UAW in Chattanooga was Matt Patterson, a former editor of Labor Watch and now executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom (an affiliate of Americans for Tax Reform). Patterson noted in an op-ed that “The UAW spent an estimated $5 million in its two-year campaign to organize the Volkswagen facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The union lost. . . . Was that a wise way to spend its members’ money? Even if the union had won in Chattanooga, how would that have profited its members in Detroit?”

Besides the loss in Chattanooga, King was largely responsible for the crisis facing his union in its historic home, the state of Michigan. Next year—when many new autoworkers are taking home second-tier wages even as most UAW staffers and officers make more than $100,000 and the union has lost millions of dollars failing to organize workers far from home—Michigan members angry at the dues hike will have a choice to keep their dues money in their own pockets.

That Michigan workers have this choice is one of Bob King’s legacies (a good legacy from workers’ standpoint, of course, but not from the standpoint of the union). As Daniel Howes of the Detroit News observes, King backed a “ballot measure that backfired on union interests—chiefly the question that triggered the right-to-work law.” Proposal 2, a failed constitutional amendment on Michigan’s 2012 ballot, would have given government unions an effective veto over state legislation and would have banned any right-to-work law.

Before the UAW spent millions trying to pass the proposal, Howes wrote, “Republican Gov. Rick Snyder personally advised King against it, saying, ‘Don’t kick the elephant.’ He did it anyway.” Previously, unions and their opponents had had a sort of mutual non-aggression pact. The unions wouldn’t try to gain absolute power over state government, and most elected officials wouldn’t push for a state Right to Work law.

Knowing the possible consequences, King broke that détente. Then, when Prop 2 failed [see the December 2012 Labor Watch], the opponents of forced unionization reasonably saw the result as reflecting the voice of the people. They believed the time was ripe for worker freedom. So they made Michigan—the state most strongly associated with labor unions—into a Right to Work state.

You might think that UAW members would push for a change in leadership, but you would be wrong. As has been the case in the selection of every UAW president since 1970, the choice was really made by the “Reuther Caucus,” the UAW’s administrative committee, so called in tribute to longtime union president Walter Reuther.  The vote at the convention was a formality.

The new president, Dennis Williams, was the secretary-treasurer during the King presidency and presided over much of the loss of the strike fund. His replacement as secretary-treasurer was Gary Casteel, director of the UAW southeast region for the past dozen years and one of those most responsible for the union’s failure to penetrate the South’s foreign-owned auto manufacturing plants.

To an outsider, at least, both men seem to have failed in their previous jobs, but they were promoted nonetheless.

The UAW does not show signs of changing. It will continue to spend big on corporate campaigns against Southern auto companies, even as workers there repeatedly say no. Employees and officers at the union’s national headquarters will continue to make six-figure salaries. Soon, with Big Three contracts expiring, UAW leaders will be pressed to prove their relevance. Will they take a hard line with General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler? Will they force the Big Three into stringent work rules and unsustainable benefits—the course that bankrupted two of the three? Will UAW members finally say that enough is enough? In their desperation, what will the UAW leadership  do?

As the saying goes, nothing is more dangerous than a wounded animal.

About the Author:  F. Vincent Vernuccio is director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research and educational institute headquartered in Midland, Michigan. Nathan Lehman, a 2014 research intern with the Center, contributed to this article. This issue originally appeared in the August 2014 issue of Labor Watch and is republished here with permission.

Teachers Unions Reforming Themselves?

Not going to happen. If change comes, it will be from the outside.

Mike Stryer is a former teacher and co-founder of NewTLA, a union reform group that came into being in 2010. One of its goals was to get the powerful United Teachers of Los Angeles to adopt a sweeping education reform agenda. Now Vice President for Programs at Teach Plus, he wrote “A Crossroads for Teacher Unions?” for Huffington Post last week.

As teacher unions step up their calls to stop the “corporate agenda” in education and to confront the “privatization” movement, there is a far more real and serious threat facing teacher unions. The threat comes not from billionaires or charter schools or philanthropists. Rather, it comes from many teacher unions’ difficulty to modernize and reshape themselves in the midst of profound demographic changes of their members. At stake are the relevance and even existence of teacher unions–a force that historically has played such a vital role in American public school education.

Stryer believes that the younger union members aren’t going to put up with their stodgy old out-of-touch, anti-reform elders.

Teacher unions and teacher union leaders that continue to ignore the voices of the new majority of early career teachers do so at their own peril. The choice should be clear: modernize and reshape teacher unions in ways that professionalize teaching and attract early career teachers or become a disappearing force that plays a marginal role in American public education.

I wish he was right, but history has shown otherwise. Attempting to placate younger teachers and the general public, union leaders have for some time now been pledging to engage in reform, raise teaching standards and, in general, bend and change with the times. But when push comes to shove, the same old agenda remains in place.

It is true that younger teachers as a rule are not much interested in the traditional union agenda and the more idealistic ones like Mr. Stryer are downright opposed to it. And, yes, the bulk of the activists are indeed older members. But the young eventually become older, and inevitably the traditional “protect my job and perks at all costs” mentality kicks in. Tenure, seniority, the step-and-column salary scale and loopy dismissal statutes become infinitely more enticing as the years go by.

Long time teacher union watchdog, Mike Antonucci, addresses the union reform issue in “Let’s All See the Plan.” While praising NewTLA’s efforts, he writes,

The teacher union reform field is littered with the bodies of those who sought to alter the union’s primary mission – protecting teachers – and found themselves ousted in favor of challengers who promised to get tough with administrators.

Terry Moe, another veteran teacher union critic, writes “Will Young People Reform Teachers Unions? Dream On.”

The argument that young teachers are going to transform the unions is just as fanciful, and just as wrong…. Unions are unions. They are in the business of protecting jobs: that is why their members join, that is what their members expect them to do, and that is what they actually do. If you expect them to do something else–to represent children or to represent the public interest–you will be wrong ….

Not to say that teachers unions are invulnerable. In fact, they are very much embattled. But the offensive is coming from the outside, not from the union rank-and-file. For example,

  • According to a recent Gallup Poll – continuing a trend – twice as many Americans think that teachers unions hurt rather than help public schools. (But it’s important to note that teachers’ opinions of their unions are not moving in the same direction. In a 2013 Education Next poll, 56 percent of teachers claim that their unions have a positive effect on their local schools. In 2011, the number was 58 percent, an insignificant difference.)
  • The right-to-work movement is gaining steam. After successes in Michigan and Indiana, the National Right to Work Foundation is trying to end forced unionism in Missouri, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.
  • If successful, the Students Matter lawsuit in California will remove the tenure, seniority and arcane dismissal statutes from the education code and render them unconstitutional, thus making it easier to get rid of incompetent and criminal teachers while outlawing seniority as a method of teacher retention.
  • If the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case gets to the U.S. Supreme Court, it could conceivably end forced unionism in all fifty states.
  • As technology-based education becomes more prevalent, fewer teachers will be needed.
  • There has been a steady political shift. Whereas unions historically could rely on across-the-board support from Democrats, many current reform leaders are left-of-center folks who have come to realize that the unions do not act in the best interest of children.
  • Parent groups are becoming more influential. Typically led by mothers, these organizations are fed up with the status quo, and are demanding reform in cities and towns nationwide.

Yes, change will come, but don’t wait for teachers or their unions to reform themselves. Ain’t gonna happen. As Terry Moe says, “Don’t expect a cat to bark.”

What about NewTLA?

Launched with a full head of steam in 2010, they ceased to exist just two years later.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Michigan: One Year Later

Teachers union is desperate to hold onto every last unwilling member.

A year after Michigan became the country’s 24th right-to-work state, teachers are finding that their union resembles a Roach Motel – it’s real easy to get in, but getting out can be a mother. Just ask Miriam Chanski, a 24 year-old Kindergarten teacher who was misinformed, disinformed, and ignored when she tried to resign from the Michigan Education Association. As a result of the union’s chicanery, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has taken up her case.

The inconvenient truth for the unions is that when teachers actually have a choice whether or not to join, many don’t, which is a big problem for the unions. In a moment of candor, former National Education Association general counsel Bob Chanin admitted as much in a U.S. District Court oral argument in 1978,

… it is well-recognized that if you take away the mechanism of payroll deduction, you won’t collect a penny from these people, and it has nothing to do with voluntary or involuntary. I think it has to do with the nature of the beast, and the beasts who are our teachers . . . simply don’t come up with the money regardless of the purpose. (Emphasis added.)

This is a nicer way of saying, “If you don’t hand over your money willingly, we will take it from you anyway.” While those in the law enforcement community would call this “robbery,” the unions politely call it “payroll deduction.”

Unfortunately, there are teachers who can be counted on to faithfully spout the union party line and Chanski’s suit has brought them out of the woodwork. As reported in a Detroit News editorial last week, some teachers are displeased with their colleagues who are trying to part ways with the union.

  • … Upon leaving the union, is she (Chanski) also willing to give up the salary that united teachers achieved over three or four decades of bargaining and negotiating?
  • When she (Chanski) decided to exercise her rights not to be in the union, did she also give up the pay/benefits/working conditions the union fought and bargained for her and other members?
  • Freeloading services is un-American.

Ah, the F-Bomb has been dropped! “Freeloader” is an epithet hurled at independent teachers who would like to disengage from their union. But even with a right-to-work statute in place, public sector workers under a union contract still can’t represent themselves according to Michigan law. This is known as exclusive or monopoly representation, which means that any worker who leaves a union is still tethered to the contract negotiated by that union. So these so-called freeloaders or free riders don’t have a choice. As such, they are really “forced riders.”

While not forcing teachers to join the union is a step in the right direction, why should they still be subjected to a collective bargaining agreement that they want nothing to do with? As the editorial goes on to explain,

The National Labor Relations Board specifies that members-only bargaining is acceptable in the private sector, but states set public sector rules. Yet members-only agreements, which allow for a union to bargain on behalf of only dues-paying employees, are rare since unions prefer to represent all workers.

Writing about monopoly bargaining in Michigan, teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci explains,

Leaving aside the question of those who may not benefit from a contract they are forced to pay for – math and science teachers, low-seniority teachers, high-performing teachers, teachers who might want a different insurance provider – unions are required by law to represent everyone in a bargaining unit, regardless of membership status, because they insist on it. The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves. Making people pay for services they neither asked for nor want is a “privilege” we reserve for government, not for private organizations. Unions are freeloading on those additional dues.…The “freeload” crack is especially ironic coming from MEA (Michigan Education Association), which ran an $11 million budget deficit in 2010-11 and is a cumulative $113 million in the red. In other words, the union has spent millions of dollars in dues it hasn’t collected yet, some of which will be paid by people who might not even be members yet. Who is freeloading?

But there may be help on the way, as there is a talk of legislation in Michigan that would eliminate monopoly representation for all public-sector workers. This isn’t going over well with American Federation of Teachers-Michigan president David Hecker. He wants to keep the exclusivity clauses because he says “the union cares about all workers.”

All of them? Even the ones who are desperately trying to escape? Mr. Hecker is engaging in 1984-style union Newspeak at its finest. Yes, George Orwell’s spirit is alive and well.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Right-to-Work States Beware

Right-to-Work states need to take heed of several recent events, which are prime indicators of big labor’s intent to revitalize its sagging membership roles and the administration’s intent to support them. The most recent event was Terry McAuliffe’s victory over Ken Cuccinelli in last weeks Virginia Governor race, where the Unions Poured Millions of Dollars to Support McAuliffe’s Campaign, led by the SEIU’s approximately $540,000, because McAuliffe has “hinted” he would not stand in the way of Right-to-Work (RTW) being overturned in Virginia.

This is just the Tip of the Iceberg when discussing the recent union assaults on RTW states. In mid September, a Lake County judge in Indiana agreed with a suit filed by the International Union of Operating Engineers and found Indiana’s RTW Law to be Unconstitutional, because it was unfair that unions have to represent employees who do not pay dues. This case will be reviewed by the Indiana Supreme Court in the near future, and most likely be overturned. An easy way to solve this union concern is by Putting “Teeth” in Right-To-Work laws, inserting language that would  eliminate the “Check Off” clauses in collective bargaining agreements. The “Check Off” clause requires employers or government entities to deduct union dues from employees pay checks and send those dues to the union. The unions would simply collect the dues directly from the employees who desire union representation and work only in their behalf. What could be more fair?

Also, in the past couple of months, the UAW has launched a Corporate Campaign against a Volkswagen Facility in Chattanooga, Tennessee and a Nissan Facility in Canton, Mississippi, both RTW states. The goal is to force management at these plants to sign a Neutrality Agreement, which eliminates the secret ballot election for workers, replacing the process with Card Check. This prevents employees from choosing if they want union representation or not through the secret ballot election, and reverts to the ruthless practice of force unionizing employees against their will!

The current Administration, in need of big labor’s support in the upcoming 2014 Mid-Term Elections, is attempting to “grease the wheels” and make it easy for big labor to execute Corporate Campaigns against employers in RTW states. They have appointed Radical Pro-Labor Department Heads at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and the Department of Labor (DOL), as seen in Labor Department goes on rulemaking spree and OSHA Seeks to Make Big Companies’ Worker-Injury Records Public. The goal is to change regulations, implement new rules and overturn past decisions so that big labor can embark on expansive organizing campaigns in America’s union scarce southern regions, where employment is growing. If successful, this could bring about serious political upheaval in favor of the Administration, as the unions would gain more dues paying members.

Both the Administration and big labor understand that they desperately need more political allies and money to survive, as the U.S. Supreme Court Has An Opportunity to Protect Fundamental Freedoms and potentially deal a death blow to Card Check in the coming months, big labor’s only remaining hope to avoid extinction.

The first case will begin this week, on November 13th, where The Devil at My Doorstep will be utilized as evidence by the law firm Ogletree Deakins, in an amicus brief defending an employee from a company in Florida (RTW state). The company bowed to union pressure by signing a Neutrality Agreement, subjecting its employees to the ruthless union Card Check process. Instead of giving in to the card  process, one employee had the backbone to stand up to the Unite Here union bullies, and contacted the National Right to Work Committee, headed by Mark Mix. The NRTW Committee has been working to defend his rights and is taking his case to the Supreme Court. The second case, involving the Constitutionality of President Obama’s Recess Appointees to the NLRB, will be heard early next year. If upheld, this decision could stop the NLRB’s current march to change regulations that allow for the unfettered use of Corporate Campaigns by big labor to impose Card Check upon unsuspecting employees.

The outcomes of these cases will no doubt determine the future of big labor. In the meantime, with the support of the current Administration, big labor will wage an all out war on RTW laws and RTW states in an effort to increase membership and political power. There is no doubt these states, and RTW across the country, are in the crosshairs of the big labor bosses and the Administration. It is imperative that these states and all Americans defend the Right-to-Work legislation, as it is a basic American freedom.

David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Union Activists Disrupt Right-to-Work Forum in Washington

Last week we reported on new efforts underway in the northwest to implement right-to-work laws. In particular, we reported on a public sector right-to-work initiative proposed for the November 2014 Oregon state ballot, “Oregon ‘Public Employee Choice Act’ Aims for 2014 Ballot.” These efforts will trigger a union funded backlash that will intensify in direct proportion to the probability these reforms may have to be successful. What happened on Sept. 4th in Vancouver, Washington is a sobering, and mild, reminder to reformers of what they are in for. Click on the links, especially the video.

From the Macinack Center website: Two people were arrested Thursday night as part of an anti-worker freedom protest at a policy forum in Vancouver, Wash., jointly sponsored by the Freedom Foundation and the Cascade Policy Institute. The Mackinac Center’s F. Vincent Vernuccio, labor policy director, was the keynote speaker at the event. You can read more about it here. Photos and video can be found here and here.

If you view the video you will see one of the presenters, Vincent Vernuccio from the Mackinac Center, attempt to reason with the protesters. The protesters accuse Vernuccio’s organization of being funded by “big business,” and therefore they must be opposed to the interests of workers, and attempting to crush unions. The protesters claim that Vernuccio doesn’t want to reveal the names of the donors to his organization.

Vernuccio correctly asserts that the donations his organization receives are voluntary, whereas union dues are compulsory. But there is another point worth making, although it may have been wasted in the heat of that debate.

Big business is not necessarily opposed to unions at all. But unions can only thrive in monopolistic environments. Union actions at northwestern ports, as well as at ports in southern California, offer recent and visceral proof of the power of unions who can control the flow of goods. And the ultimate monopoly is the public sector, where unions can elect their own bosses, and have no requirement for their organizations to earn a profit. In the private sector, even in quasi-monopolies, at least the management is not elected by the unions, and at least there are potential competitive threats that compel unions to exercise some restraint in their demands.

The protesters at the meeting on Sept. 4th might ponder this concept:  There is a natural unity of interests between unions, crony capitalists, too-big-to-fail banks, pension funds, bond underwriters, and their friends in government. Opposing these powerful interest groups are productive capitalists who wish to offer competitive products in a free market, offering customers innovative solutions that are better, faster and cheaper. The first group colludes to control markets and raise the cost-of-living for everyone, in exchange for their own enrichment. The second competes in an open market to lower the cost-of-living for everyone, earning a profit in the process. This is an economic choice that doesn’t easily lend itself to simplistic paradigms of left vs. right, or worker vs. owner.

Ed Ring is the executive director of the California Public Policy Center and the editor of UnionWatch.

Right-to-Work Rights and Wrongs

Teachers union treasurer perpetuates myths about worker freedom.

The term “right-to-work” (RTW) very simply means that workers don’t have to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. In the U.S., there are 24 such states and 26 where paying dues to a union  is required in many workplaces.

The unions, with all their pro-worker chatter, hate the fact that in some places, employees actually have a choice whether to join or not. As Stan Greer, senior research associate for the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, wrote recently, “Teacher Union Bosses’ Hatred of Right to Work Laws Is Understandable” – the reason being that people are flocking to RTW states in droves, which is costing unions millions in lost dues. The National Education Association has been hit especially hard.

The U.S. Census Bureau data show that, from 2002 to 2012, the number of K-12 school-aged children (that is, 5-17 year-olds) across the U.S. edged up by 0.8%, from 53.28 million to 53.73 million.  However, the 22 states that had Right to Work laws on the books barring forced union dues and fees throughout the period saw their aggregate school-aged population grow by 1.7 million, or 8.3%.  Meanwhile, the number of school-aged children living in the 27 states that lacked Right to Work laws throughout the period fell by nearly 1.3 million, or 4.0%.  (Indiana, whose Right to Work law took effect in early 2012, is excluded.)

But the union crowd never misses an opportunity to let a clever sounding narrative run roughshod over the facts. The latest purveyor of union blather is Arlene Inouye, current treasurer of the United Teachers of Los Angeles and member of the ominous sounding “Union Power Slate,” a group that is trying to unseat current president Warren Fletcher in an election this January. In the latest edition of the union newspaper, she wrote “Unionism 101: The growing right-to-work (for less) movement,” an article riddled with errors, half-truths and good old-fashioned demagoguery. Ms. Inouye made her first blunder when she quoted the president.

President Obama exposed what it is really about when he said right to work “will take your right to bargain for better wages” and give you the “right to work for less money.” So, let’s call it what it really is: a right-to-work (for less) legislative movement.

The statement, which conflates two issues, is erroneous. RTW simply means that workers have a choice. Collective bargaining can exist in a RTW state.

Ms. Inouye relentlessly pounds the cutesy “for less” theme in her piece which is replete with all the usual buzz terms. “The one percenters,” “an attack on the public sector” and “corporate interests in politics” all make an appearance along with several sob stories about abused, impoverished and beleaguered teachers in RTW states.

But the facts are quite different. The National Institute for Labor Relations Research reported that in 2011, when disposable personal income – personal income minus taxes – was adjusted for differences in living costs, the seven states with the lowest incomes per capita (Alaska, California, Hawaii, Maine, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia) lack Right to Work laws.

Of the nine states with the highest cost of living-adjusted disposable incomes in 2011, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wyoming all have Right to Work laws. The sole exception among the nine is forced-unionism Illinois. While the Prairie State’s relatively high spendable average income is a positive, it should be noted the state is at the same time plagued by high out-migration of families with children and extraordinarily poor job creation.

Overall, the cost of living-adjusted disposable income per capita for Right to Work states in 2011 was more than $36,800, or roughly $2200 higher than the average for forced-unionism states.

After Michigan became a RTW state, The Wall Street Journal reported,

According to the West Michigan Policy Forum, of the 10 states with the highest rate of personal income growth, eight have right-to-work laws. Those numbers are driving a net migration from forced union states: Between 2000 and 2010, five million people moved to right-to-work states from compulsory union states.

Other policies (such as no income tax) play a role in such migration, so economist Richard Vedder tried to sort out the variables. In the 2010 Cato Journal, he wrote that “without exception” he found “a statistically significant positive relationship” between right to work and net migration.

Mr. Vedder also found a 23% higher rate of per capita income growth in right-to-work states. An analysis by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance finds that Michigan is now the 35th state in overall prosperity measured by per capita income. Had Michigan adopted a right-to-work law in 1977, the group estimates, per capita income for a family of four would have been $13,556 higher by 2008. (Emphasis added.)

Despite Ms. Inouye’s apocalyptic scenario, many teachers (especially younger ones) actively avoid unionization. Charter schools, only a small percentage of which are unionized, are quickly gaining in popularity with parents and teachers alike. In this brief video put out by the California Charter School Association, we hear teachers explain why they like to teach in a less restrictive setting:

  • I feel like an innovator.
  • We have more freedom and can be more creative.
  • We can be places that empower teachers.
  • Charters are the result of people saying, “This isn’t working; we want to try something different.”

Trying “something different” when you have a phonebook-sized union contract hanging over your head is rather difficult.

Wisconsin, where teachers now have a choice to join a union – thanks to Governor Scott Walker – has seen a precipitous drop in membership.

The Wisconsin Education Association Council, the state’s largest teachers union, lost about half of its 98,000 members since Act 10 became law in 2011, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. That means WEAC has lost approximately half of its annual income from membership dues, which has impacted its ability to remain a force on the state political scene. (Emphasis added.)

But I did agree with one point that Ms. Inouye made. Quoting Bob Peterson, president of the Milwaukee Teachers Union, she wrote, “Be vigilant, informed, and don’t think that it (becoming RTW) won’t happen to you.”

Whether California will ever become RTW is anyone’s guess, but being vigilant and informed is certainly a worthy pursuit. However, considering the sophistry emanating from Ms. Inouye, she is hardly the one to be offering the “information.”

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Americans Should Know They Have Choices In The Workplace

In the summer of 2012, the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Las Vegas, initiated a campaign to let local teachers know that they could opt out of their union, the 12,000 member Clark County Education Association, by submitting written notice between July 1 and July 15.

The reaction was dazzling. Hundreds of teachers had wanted to leave the union but didn’t know that it was possible. Armed with their new-found information, over 400 chose to leave their unions.

Building on that momentum, NPRI, in conjunction with the Association of American Educators, is promoting June 23-29 this year as National Employee Freedom Week — a week dedicated to educating employees about exactly what rights they have regarding union membership. The campaign has over 50 member organizations across the nation.

When it comes to employee freedom, every state’s experience is different. California, for instance, is different than Nevada because it’s not a right-to-work state, in which employees may leave their unions at any point. In California, however, union members must still pay the portion of union dues that goes toward collective bargaining and other non-political union-related activities.

Know The Options

But if they don’t like their union’s politics, they don’t have to help fund them. The dissenters who select this “agency fee” option typically do so because they don’t like that about one-third of their dues goes for political spending. Even though over 40% of union households voted Republican in 2012, over 90% of union largesse went to Democrats and liberal causes.

This is important for employees in every state, including California. The Golden State has many dominant unions — perhaps none more powerful than the mighty California Teachers Association with its 300,000 members and its more than $211 million in political spending between 2000 and 2009 alone, with additional millions since.

This past year, an agency fee payer in the CTA could expect to get a $224 rebate. (The complete rebate would actually be more because when a teacher joins a union in California, they are actually joining three — local, state and national — and would get rebates from each of them.)

It is important to note that different unions in different states have specific opt-out periods during which a worker can exercise their right to leave. In many states, like California, one not only has to resign, but also must ask for a rebate of the political portion of their dues every year within a specified, and frequently very narrow, window of time.

To be clear, National Employee Freedom Week is not about denying anyone the right to belong to a union, but rather about letting employees know their options and providing them with the facts they need to make an informed decision that’s right for them.

Time For A Discussion

Unions are threatened when workers opt out, and typically accuse dissidents of being “free riders” or freeloaders. But if workers don’t want the services that the union has to offer, they have no choice; they have to accept them because the union demands exclusivity.

So instead of “free rider,” a better term would be “forced rider.” Teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci explains, “The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves.”

In other words, opting out of a union isn’t threatening to the union at all; employees still pay for the union’s collective bargaining activity, allowing unions to continue pursuing their central tasks, while simultaneously giving employees additional freedom with their paychecks and time.

It’s an appealing option for many union members: National Employee Freedom Week conducted scientific surveys of union households across the nation, and a full 33% of national respondents indicated they would opt out of union membership if given the chance.

Regardless of which path employees take, this will start a larger discussion about what employees need most to be effective in their jobs, whether they work in a classroom or a factory. Perhaps National Employee Freedom Week would be a good time for everyone — from California to Connecticut — to have that discussion.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Workers of the World, Your Rights!

A week in June is being promoted to advise workers of their right to opt out of union membership.

Unknown to many employees throughout the country – especially in non-right-to-work states – they have a right to not belong to a union. This year, June 23rd – 29th is being dedicated to informing America’s wage earners of their union membership options. This project, National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW), is spearheaded by the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and the Association of American Educators (AAE).

The idea for this undertaking came about in the summer of 2012 when NPRI, a non-partisan think tank based in Las Vegas, launched a small-scale campaign to let local teachers know that they could opt out of their union, the Clark County Education Association, by submitting written notice from July 1st to July 15th.

The reaction was stunning. Teachers thanked NPRI for sharing that information. Hundreds of teachers wanted to leave CCEA, each for their own unique reasons, but didn’t know it was possible or forgot because of the narrow and inconvenient drop window. Empowered by the information NPRI shared, over 400 teachers opted out by submitting written notice and over 400 more left CCEA and weren’t replaced by a union member.

The U.S. is comprised of 24 “right-to-work” states which grant workers a choice whether or not to belong to a union. In the other 26 and Washington, D.C., they don’t have to belong but must still pay the portion of union dues that goes toward collective bargaining and other non-political union-related activities. The dissenters who select this “agency fee” option typically do so because they don’t like that about one-third of their dues goes for political spending. Even though over 40 percent of union households vote Republican, over 90 percent of union largess goes to Democrats and liberal causes. (There is an exemption for religious objectors; if an employee is successful in attaining that status, they don’t have to pay any money to the union, but must donate a full dues share to an approved charity.)

As president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, I am well aware of teachers’ frustrations. We have been providing information to educators about their rights since 2006, and thousands have exercised their right to resign from their teachers union in the Golden State. It is important to note that different unions in different states have specific opt-out periods during which a worker can exercise their right to leave. In many states, one not only has to resign, but also must ask for a rebate of the political portion of their dues every year during a specified – and frequently very narrow – window of time.

To be clear, NEFW is not about denying anyone the right to belong to a union, but rather about letting employees know their options and providing them with facts that they can use to make an informed decision. Unions are threatened when workers choose to opt out, and typically accuse dissidents of being “free riders” or freeloaders. But, if employees don’t want the services that the union has to offer, they have no choice but to accept them because the union demands exclusivity. As I wrote recently, quoting Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk,

Unions object that right-to-work is actually “right-to-freeload.” The AFL-CIO argues “unions are forced by law to protect all workers, even those who don’t contribute financially toward the expenses incurred by providing those protections.” They contend they should not have to represent workers who do not pay their “fair share.”

It is a compelling argument, but untrue. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate unions exclusively represent all employees, but permits them to electively do so. (Emphasis added.) Under the Act, unions can also negotiate “members-only” contracts that only cover dues-paying members. They do not have to represent other employees.

The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly on this point. As Justice William Brennan wrote in Retail Clerks v. Lion Dry Goods, the Act’s coverage “is not limited to labor organizations which are entitled to recognition as exclusive bargaining agents of employees … ‘Members only’ contracts have long been recognized.”

As Sherk says, while unions don’t have to represent all employees, they do so voluntarily to eliminate any competition. So instead of “free rider,” a better term would be “forced rider.” Teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci explains,

The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves. Making people pay for services they neither asked for nor want is a “privilege” we reserve for government, not for private organizations. Unions are freeloading on those additional dues.

One final thought: If unions are so beneficial for workers – as they keep telling us – why must they force people to pay for their service?

I never have received a response to that question. Maybe because there is no good answer. Something for all of us to ponder during National Employee Freedom Week.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Putting “Teeth” in Right-to-Work

Having been involved in discussion regarding Right-To-Work legislation in Indiana and Michigan, I can attest to the tireless efforts of grassroots movements – by local businesses in Indiana and concerned United Auto Worker employees in Michigan – to achieve the goal of protecting worker freedoms. Statistical data shows that the implementation of a Right-To-Work law is positive, as such states see statistical growth in both population and jobs. Right-To-Work laws are important guarantees of the freedom of choice and the assurance of a lack of intimidation in the organizing process, but there is growing evidence that workers and management in RTW states are still subjected to union intimidation.

A recent article by Diana Furchtgott-Roth of The Manhattan Institute, suggests not.  Ms. Furchtgott-Roth points out that RTW states not only have the highest employment growth over the last 4-5 years, but they also have the highest growth rate for union membership! The statistics she presented were absolutely astonishing, but few people have picked up on the significance and logic behind the union growth in these states. The truly frightening part is the number of cases recorded, since Card Check is virtually unregulated and therefore untraceable.

“Why Union Growth: According to data from the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), in 38% of all union recognitions in 2009, the latest year for which data is available, unions bypassed secret ballot elections and instead used card checks to unionize employees. Specifically, the NLRB reports that unions won 794 single-union representation elections. During that period, the NLRB recorded 485 notices of card check union recognition.”

Unfortunately, Big Labor’s “Gasping Dinosaurs” are a resourceful lot. Their political contributions have bought them the support of President Obama and his Administration, who has, in turn, appointed a Rogue NLRB. The NLRB is currently lead by heavily pro-union favored board members, many of whom were unconstitutionally appointed by the President (see Appeals Court Nixed Obama’s Recess Appointments). The result of this support is that Big Labor bosses see RTW states as a shining new opportunity to rebuild its declining membership. Unions understand that with the support of the indebted President and pro-labor support from the NLRB, they can achieve membership without an election through Card Check by utilizing their insidious campaigns of “Death by a Thousand Cuts.”

Once they have infiltrated the masses, Big Labor can then use the same type tactics against the newly forced unionized employees to ensure that they don’t exercise their right not to pay dues (or in some cases, belong to the union) under RTW laws. This can be accomplished by making sure that the uneducated are not advised of these rights, or by the specific targeting of persons who choose not to pay dues.  This can be accomplished because, unions are legally allowed to broadcast a list of those individuals who choose not to pay dues (see Worker’s Allege Improper Collection of Union Dues).

This raises concern, as it is unclear how the “dues-paying” union membership will choose to use this list. Membership who view non-payers as “freeloaders,” may be inclined to use unlawful force, threats, and/or intimidation in an attempt to alter a non-member’s decision. Unfortunately, most members ultimately cave, as employees subject to such intimidation have few options.  While this type of activity is unlawful, the sole oversight of these actions belongs with the National Labor Relations Board, a partisan governmental “agency” whose devotion to labor unions is well-documented and unquestioned. The process is timely, difficult to understand, and expensive – as it generally includes the involvement of an attorney to represent ones interest. With little oversight, Big Labor can continue to grow its membership in RTW states through a combination of employee and employer intimidation, with no government regulation to hinder its actions.

Although RTW has been a Godsend for many states, employees and employers, RTW laws need more “teeth” in order to truly protect employees and employers from ruthless forced unionization tactics. The following changes would eliminate the “behind the scenes” intimidation and allow for fair representation in union elections. Additionally, these changes would impose collective bargaining restrictions that would allow members to make decisions free of coercion as to whether they wished to remain part of the bargaining unit.

1. Reinstate Secret Ballot Elections:  Uphold the long standing belief in allowing people to vote their conscience through a “Secret Ballot Election” by inserting language that requires all union representation be achieved by secret ballot conducted under the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). Currently Indiana State Senator Jim Banks has introduced such an Amendment to the Indiana state constitution and Virginia has already passed such a law (see New Employee Privacy and Union Voting Rights Laws in Virginia Go Into Effect July 2013).

2. Eliminate Check Off Clauses:  Such clauses in collective bargaining agreements require unionized employers and government entities to deduct union dues from member paychecks and forward them to the union. These clauses are utilized by Big Labor through intimidation to force employees to remain part of the bargaining unit in RTW states. Unions should be required to be their own accountants and collect dues directly from the employees without third party involvement. In essence members would then have the ability to decide, just like in the free market, if the services/products they are receiving are worth paying for directly. This is no different than a person paying when satisfied for legal, real estate, investing, or other services/ products. It only makes sense, but is often a non-starter for Big Labor in contract negotiations (see Teachers Silenced by Teachers Union).

3. Eliminate Monopoly Representation and Outlaw Neutrality Agreements:  In The Devil at Our Doorstep, I presented the following as the first two points in my “Ten-Point Plan to Battle Big Labor.”

a) Replace the current union monopoly representation with a secret ballot election every three years, so unions have to justify their actions to the employees. Unions must obtain written consent from every dues paying member before using money on anything other than collective bargaining activities.

b) Institute a new regulation that outlaws neutrality-type agreements, which allow card check in lieu of secret ballot elections.

4. Rewrite State Extortion and Blackmail Laws:  James Sherk of The Heritage Foundation accurately proposed that we should modify state extortion and blackmail laws to include unions, which are currently not implicated under labor law. This would prohibit pressure campaigns which are designed to force an employer to surrender, rather than trying to persuade the employees to unionize.

Leveling the Playing Field through these changes and passing a National Right-To-Work Law are necessary steps to improve the economy and continue to create jobs absent the threat of Big Labor intimidation! It is imperative for this great country and the freedom of its citizens that new “teeth” are introduced to support and assure the success of the recently passed Right-To-Work laws.

David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” as well as the just released sequel, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Paradise Lost – California is not too big to fail

One early December morning, Las Vegas police moved in on the Silverton Hotel and Casino, just off the Strip and known for its 117,000-gallon aquarium. There, having located a getaway black Audi with no license plates, they arrested 31-year-old Ka Pasasouk—a Laotian immigrant with a violent history who had eluded deportation as well as imprisonment. The Dragnet-style work came less than 24 hours after police back in Northridge, a Los Angeles suburb known for a state university campus, discovered what they called a “very grisly tableau.”

Outside an overcrowded boarding house, described in press accounts as unlicensed, lay the bodies of two men and two women, whom Pasasouk has now been charged with murdering. The story captured attention up and down the already tense state, where the phrase “grisly tableau” could easily have found wide use in the ubiquitous conversations about California’s economic, political, and social decay. America’s promised land has turned dystopian.

Especially in the movies, Californians do love to imagine how the forces of darkness could bring an Armageddon-like end to their earthly paradise. That is because, as they leave the theater, it has always still been paradise. Lately, however, life outside the cineplex has also turned dark.

The image of idyllic California, as cable watchers from coast to coast know, took another devastating blow in mid-February, when the disgruntled former LAPD officer Christopher Dorner went on his wild, manifesto-driven killing spree. In the frantic, weeklong manhunt, during which police officers managed to shoot innocent civilians who stumbled in their way, a sense of unloosed anarchy descended.

Dorner and Pasasouk. The first a crazed ex-cop who, amid his quadruple murders, managed to tweak a race-troubled LAPD history into a PR campaign that stymied public information officers and even, appallingly, gathered a measure of public admiration. The second a near-perfect symbol of the breakdown of liberal institutions. Both accentuating the sense that everything is falling apart in the storied state.

A civic unease runs through California these days. Premonitions abound of terrible things ahead. Not the space invaders or blade-runners of cinematic imagination, but padlocked -public services, interminable DMV lines, closed classrooms, off-limits recreational areas, public employee strikes, inadequate or nonexistent police, fire, and medical responses.

Just days before the Northridge slaughter, San Bernardino city attorney Jim Penman addressed a crowded city council meeting in the wake of an elderly woman’s murder, telling residents of the bankrupt municipality to “lock their doors and load their guns.” Penman was not alone among California city officials forced to slash law enforcement budgets. Nor did he back down amid the predictable media tut-tutting: “You should say what you mean and mean what you say.”

California voters in November overwhelmingly pulled the lever for a one-party state. Democrats control the governorship, statewide offices, and veto-proof legislative majorities—all beholden to powerful state employee unions. If the recent standoffs with such unions in Wisconsin and Michigan seemed dramatic, just wait for the coming epic in California, a state known for manufacturing drama. No prospective Scott Walker or Rick Snyder, the governors of Wisconsin and Michigan, appears on the political horizon. But that doesn’t mean peace with the unions—the money to buy it doesn’t exist. So there will be a budget war of multiple battles and skirmishes. With Republicans already prostrate, some joke darkly—this, mind you, in the land of Reagan and “sunny optimism”—of adopting a Leninist approach: Let it all collapse .  .  . break the whole egg carton .  .  . build on the ruins .  .  . make lots of morning-after omelets. A dark scenario indeed, but name another more likely for Republicans.

To be sure, and before the joke is taken seriously, Lenin actively instigated disorder and turmoil, the better to erect his totalitarian structure and, yes, his one-party state. The gallows humor of California Republicans is strictly passive; they are resigned to let nature take its course, the better to dismantle failed structures and launch productive, pluralistic systems consistent with freedom. The state’s new political dispensation gives Republicans no alternative other than to be ready with workable proposals after the fall.

The grim conversations begin and end with public safety, but every conceivable policy issue—the economy, education, the environment—has made its way into the crucible, testing whether a state can survive with a prosperous, enlightened populace under the political left’s expensive, freedom-killing programs. Our Burkean libertarianism tells us that California’s current travails will prove it cannot.

Take Ka Pasasouk (please). Now charged with orchestrating four homicides, the Laotian had stuck his thumb in the eye of California’s criminal justice and immigration bureaucracies for more than five years. Charged with felonies ranging from auto theft and assault to illegal drug possession, Pasasouk, against probation department recommendations, last September was moved from jail to a drug diversion program by the Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office. Upon his release from state prison in 2008, authorities sought to deport him but failed to file requisite paperwork, the Southeast Asian thus becoming emblematic of government failure to serve and protect the public.

With California already under a U.S. Supreme Court mandate to relieve inmate overcrowding by multiple thousands, the Pasasouk case pricked the anxieties of a public already alarmed by what violent crimes may await them. At the end of the year the Sacramento Bee reported that gun sales had jumped dramatically—600,000 last year alone, up from 350,000 in 2002. Giving credence to the argument that more guns equal fewer crimes, gun injuries and deaths also plummeted over a corresponding period, the latter by 11 percent, though the Bee, not without an ideologically satisfactory explanation, attributes the improved numbers to “a well-documented, nationwide drop in violent crime.” Sure.

More recently, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland police last year arrested 44 percent fewer suspects on violent and other charges than in 2008—not because of shrinking crime rates but because of a triage policy adopted in the face of lower budgets. Notoriously, Oakland maintains the state’s highest crime rate. Last year saw “a 23 percent spike in murders, muggings and other major offenses.”

The political left may chortle that gun purchasers are panicking, but the reality is that more municipalities are likely to fall into bankruptcy (Moody’s warns of 30 more, joining Stockton and San Bernardino), severely cutting police, court, and jail budgets. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a man of the left, in December commissioned an economist and a research group to create a “default probability model” for city bonds.

Stirred into the state’s social instability are the swelling legions of school-aged youths now taking to the streets. Oakland-based Children Now’s research director Jessica Mindnich reports that, over the past dozen years, the number of young people neither in schoolrooms nor in workplaces has grown by 200,000, or 35 percent, disquieting to those who assumed that future generations, if cradled in good intentions, would surpass the achievements of their elders.

In a recent Google search of “prisoner release,” before we could finish typing the second, perfectly appropriate word, the screen suggested instead “prisoner realignment,” which is the Democrats’ euphemism for their response to the Damoclean order by the Supreme Court from May 2011. The idea was to shift “non-violent, non-serious, non-sex offenders” from the state’s prisons into already over-burdened county jails or alternatives such as home detention.

Some 9,000 prisoners were released under the program, with projections of more than three times that number to be freed. Over the nine months before the Public Safety Realignment Act of 2011 was enacted, according to law enforcement officials, property crimes had dropped 2.4 percent. In the nine months following its passage in early April of that year, property crimes rose 4.5 percent. Naturally, scholars are available to tutor the public on the difference between correlation and causation. The public—not to mention the law enforcement community—is not reassured.

Which brings us to the governor, 74-year-old Jerry Brown. Before defeating Republican Meg Whitman in 2010, Brown put in time as state attorney general and mayor of the aforementioned Oakland, not to mention two antic terms as governor back in the 1970s and ’80s—when many who voted for him this time around were not yet born. They might have heard about him as a colorful, iconoclastic, “Zen” chief executive who slept on the floor and dated a rock star, and who at least was not the dread millionaire Meg Whitman. But they knew little else and took the leap.

Unless they were public employees voting out of gratitude, the new-generation, low-information voters likely didn’t know it was Brown who, in his moonbeam years, allowed state workers to unionize in the first place, a decision that propelled the Golden State into decades of budgetary troubles and brought it to its current precipice. Besides placating unions, he also saddled businesses with a slew of environmental regulations and halted highway construction, the makings of a 30-year plague.

Let it not be said that Brown fails to tease and confound commentators, who need him to be fresh. Even in his first gubernatorial incarnation, as he marched to the left, he could come across as a kind of New Age conservative, pinstriped and looking for all the world like a young Churchill in the glow of a parliamentary speech. On alternate days he would make his “small is beautiful” philosophy seem to apply to state government, which to the sober-minded raised questions about his credibility.

In this January’s “State of the State” speech to the legislature, Brown, strangely complimenting his audience for their fiscal discipline, treated us to more of his philosophical eclecticism. He quoted the biblical story of Joseph, cited the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, and, as the pièce de résistance, offered this from Montaigne: “The most desirable laws are those that are the rarest, simplest, and most general; and I even think that it would be better to have none at all than to have them in such numbers as we have.”

Such messages may quicken the libertarian pulse, but only the most naïve could imagine the governor means to roll back big government rather than spread confusion about his direction. Last November, when voters approved his Proposition 30 to raise both income and sales taxes by $50 billion, he spread confusion to a national audience. CNN’s Candy Crowley, invoking the state’s property tax-limiting Proposition 13 of 1978, asked if he thought the birthplace of the tax revolt could now be “the start of a tax-increase sweep.” Brown answered:

Yeah, I do. I was here in 1978, when [the late Prop. 13 author] Howard Jarvis beat the entire establishment, Republican and Democrat, because the property taxes had just gotten out of control. Now the cutting, the cutting and the deficits are out of control. Our financial health, our credibility .  .  . as a nation that can govern itself, is on the chopping block.

Of course, he didn’t specify any “cutting” or “chopping” that he had in mind. Californians with long enough memories know that he was a ferocious opponent of the Jarvis amendment. Once voters overwhelmingly approved it, the “maverick” young governor miraculously remade himself into the measure’s chief exponent and champion. That sort of fast footwork made him legendary and, on occasion, a presidential contender, if usually too clever by half.

He’s still capable of the occasional magic act. A mere month after last fall’s election he announced—abracadabra!—a balanced budget. A “breakthrough,” he called it, pretending his ingenious abstemiousness had taken a giant step toward restoring California’s economic health. One Facebooking schoolteacher even suggested the governor was more frugal-minded than that notorious Republican budget cutter, Wisconsin representative Paul Ryan. Oddly enough, no disgruntled public employees emerged to produce a television spot of Governor Brown wheeling Grandma over a cliff.

Why not? Well, for one thing, Brown claimed that, while balancing the books, he had managed to find $2.7 billion more for schools and an extra $500 million for the university system while keeping a $1 billion reserve fund. Truly, a miracle worker. Moody’s, on record as expecting municipal meltdowns, was sufficiently impressed to keep the state’s ranking at A1—with the caveat that the presumed surplus would be used to pay down the debt. Standard & Poor’s upgraded its rating by a single notch.

Only one problem. The vanished deficit may be the least credible trick Jerry Brown has pulled in his cynicism-breeding career. Wyatt Buchanan of the San Francisco Chronicle explained the “convenient budget trick that helped make this possible.”

Over the past decade, lawmakers have balanced the state budget in part by borrowing money from special funds, revenue that’s raised by specific fees and taxes. Lawmakers have borrowed from those funds in the very lean times, and promised to pay them back.

Brown did this as well, and although he had planned last year to pay back special funds by $5.2 billion in the 2013-14 year, he now proposes to pay $4.2 billion. Turns out, says H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the California Department of Finance, that those special funds “had higher balances” or fewer needs than had been projected.

Buchanan also found a November projection by the Legislative Analyst’s Office that California would see a deficit in 2013-14 of $1.9 billion, “absent the lower debt payments to special funds.”

There remains, as the governor acknowledged, a “wall of debt” amounting to $28 billion. Brown straight-facedly presented a timeline, beginning this July and lasting into 2017, in which the wall would be knocked down in payment increments from $4.2 billion to $7.3 billion.

But that $28 billion, reported the Los Angeles Times, constitutes only a small, if delectable, appetizer to be served up to the Debt Monster over the next four years. The Times:

Numerous reports by state agencies, think tanks and academics have shown the wall of debt to be many stories higher than $28 billion—hundreds of billions of dollars over the next few decades. Brown’s repayment plan does not significantly reduce the sizable debt to Wall Street or account for promises the state has made to its current and future retirees but is not setting enough money aside to cover.

The amusing idea that Brown could play the moderate, or, in the words of the Orange County Register, put “a stop sign in front of his fellow Democrats in the California Legislature,” could turn grim, as disgruntled teachers and state employees, their guaranteed pensions suddenly in doubt, grab their pitchforks and pivot in the direction of the septuagenarian wonderboy. There’s still time to produce those TV spots of Grandma at the cliff, with Brown pushing.

It will not take much for the state union leadership to ally with the more ideologically committed legislators, of whom there are many, to create dramatic tensions and turmoil in Sacramento. And those of us who want to restore California’s fiscal health, not to mention the California dream, cannot count on a Scott Walker-style standoff. There is no Scott Walker, only Jerry Brown, who, loving to confound, could conceivably stand his ground. But that scenario strikes us as pure Hollywood. Brown does owe his political life to the unions, after all.

The governor’s giddy idea that his successful tax increase could sweep the nation runs up against another, more disturbing, trend: The looming municipal meltdown is not just a California problem but one faced by all the big-spending, high-taxing states, such as Illinois, Connecticut, Maryland, and New York. A day of reckoning is likely “at the national level,” according to University of Chicago economist Brian Barry, “no matter what happens to federal taxes or health care spending.”

We’re talking about as much as $4 trillion in unfunded pension liabilities courtesy of these financially troubled big states, whose governors doubtless hope to pass on their woes to Washington. The ever resourceful conservative idea man Grover Norquist, picking up on Barry’s prediction, suggests congressional Republicans exact from acquiescent Democrats a trade. He would exchange for bailout funds a plan to block-grant Medicaid and other entitlements to the states, thereby eliminating the costly, one-size-fits-all federal requirements that so bedevil state budget-makers. It could help.

As could a plan circulated by renowned supply-side economist Arthur Laffer, who would, among other solutions, have California march back to the Jarvis era, reversing Brown’s tax-hike bandwagon. He would moreover have California—in some rankings the worst state in which to do business—leave the 26-state bloc of forced unionism and join the 24 right-to-work states, many of which enjoy higher productivity, personal income, and population growth than their progressive counterparts. Sacramento as currently constituted won’t allow any of it.

Meanwhile the malaise. The once-Golden State now has the country’s highest poverty rate, more than 23 percent. Also depressing: California, whose population is 12 percent of the nation’s, is home to a third of the country’s welfare recipients. A hardened underclass, as Chapman University urbanologist Joel Kotkin has put into uneasy relief, is emerging as a source of social, economic, and political strife.

Laudably, Kotkin wants to see the unemployed raised up via a blue-collar boom, with housing, infrastructure-building, and energy, where the promise of undeveloped natural gas fields could lead the way. Again: Not bloody likely if Sacramento has any say.

Already, as Kotkin points out, the once-prosperous middle class has shrunk essentially to state retirees and those still living in homes protected by the Proposition 13 property tax limits. Allergic as they have historically been to class analysis and warfare, Republicans must answer by showing how a vigorous, free-enterprise economy can jump-start growth, spread prosperity, and lessen the chasm between the hyper-successful creative class on the coasts and the lumpenproletariat left behind on public assistance.

When multimillionaire golfer (and Republican) Phil Mickelson grumbled about his tax burden and threatened to leave the state, he found little sympathy among the suffering Californians who, their personal finances far more modest, are thinking of joining the growing out-migration of middle-class producers. A rebuilding GOP of necessity will have to direct its message to them and to ethnic groups, from the inner cities to the Central Valley, for whom the California dream of self-advancement still resonates.

The class anxieties were forced into relief when Texas’s Republican governor Rick Perry, in radio spots and personal appearances, put the welcome mat out for struggling businesses. As Perry knows, enclaves of California expats are mushrooming in Dallas and Austin suburbs. With exquisite symbolism, the national financial newspaper Investor’s Business Daily announced its plan to relocate its production facilities to the Lone Star State—not the first business to do so.

Brown’s inelegant response? Perry’s ad was but a “fart.” California’s glorious coastline, majestic mountains, and fair climate, reasoned the governor, would keep businesses slaving under his spell. But Perry, the bumbling cowpoke of last year’s presidential debates, has outfoxed him, perhaps having taken Benjamin Franklin’s counsel to “fart proudly.” Let the coastal breezes do their work.

What then, as Lenin might say, is to be done? We may dream that this rhetorically gifted performer might retire, perhaps to join his predecessor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a box-office stinkaroo. He does have plenty of experience with make-believe crime-fighting, always a Hollywood favorite.

Other than that, the political choices are excruciatingly limited. Republicans can marshal the constructive ideas of the Laffers and Kotkins while rebuilding an opposition party, but it will require quiet patience and resolve not to join the multitudes of out-migrants. The California we love always offers the most sensual solaces; Brown is not wrong about its natural glories. We must cherish them. That, and sit back serenely in our cushioned movie-house loges, popcorn at the ready, and watch as the horror show unfolds.

Shawn Steel, a former chairman of the California Republican party and current member of the Republican National Committee, is an attorney in Los Angeles. K. E. Grubbs Jr. is a longtime California journalist, now based in Washington, D.C. This article originally appeared in the Weekly Standard and is republished here with permission from the author.

If Unions Do So Much For Members, Why Bully?

The Michigan Education Association had its apple cart turned upside down when the Wolverine State went “right-to-work” in December. This means that, unlike California and 25 other states, a worker doesn’t have to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

My introduction to union coercion came in 2005, when, as a middle school teacher in Los Angeles, I joined the Prop. 75 campaign. That initiative would have prohibited public employee labor organizations from collecting the part of union dues which goes for politics without prior consent of the employee. Sensing a disruption in their forced dues gravy train, the California Teachers Association went into overdrive. It raised union dues on its members for a three-year period and mortgaged their offices in Sacramento, then used the millions they accumulated to scare teachers and the public – ominously warning them of imaginary horrors that would be visited on them if the proposition passed.

Teachers unions are forever telling its members how much the union does for them in the way of wages, job benefits, etc. You would think that an organization that does so much for its members wouldn’t have to resort to bullying to keep them in the fold. But the unions know that without forcing the issue, many teachers would just say, “No.” For instance, in Wisconsin, after Act 10 came into law allowing teachers to quit their union, about 30 percent have already quit with more to follow this June when their contracts expire.

Also, typically unspoken in the unions’ talking points is the fact that while union members in forced union states may make more than their counterparts in RTW states, the costs of goods and services are far lower in these states, the result being a net gain for the employee. The unions also don’t tell you that workers are flocking to RTW states, which have a lower unemployment rate than in states that are dominated by unions.

In Michigan, a skittish MEA is doing what it can to intimidate teachers. First, they are scrambling to get new contracts for teachers all over the state before March when the new RTW law takes effect. Also, MEA boss Steve Cook issued a threat that any teacher who decides to bail in March will be sued. According to a Wall Street Journal editorial,

“Members who indicate they wish to resign membership in March, or whenever, will be told they can only do so in August,” Mr. Cook writes in the three-page memo obtained by the West Michigan Policy Forum. “We will use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues owed under signed membership forms from any members who withhold dues prior to terminating their membership in August for the following fiscal year.”

Got that, comrade?

If nothing else, recent events have shown without a shred of doubt, the union is about maintaining its power and collecting every last penny they claim is owed to them. All the lofty talk about the children is just so much camouflage for their real agenda – accumulating money and power.

Another expression bandied about by the unions is the term “free rider.” They try to gain sympathy by suggesting that those in RTW states who don’t voluntarily join are getting something valuable for free. This specious argument really needs to be countered. Many teachers would happily say, “I don’t want any part of the union and the perks it may get me. I think I have a valuable service to offer and want to negotiate my own contract.” Seems reasonable, right? Well, that decision is not up to the teacher. As Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk points out,

Unions object that right-to-work is actually “right-to-freeload.” The AFL-CIO argues “unions are forced by law to protect all workers, even those who don’t contribute financially toward the expenses incurred by providing those protections.” They contend they should not have to represent workers who do not pay their “fair share.”

It is a compelling argument, but untrue. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate unions exclusively represent all employees, but permits them to electively do so. Under the Act, unions can also negotiate “members-only” contracts that only cover dues-paying members. They do not have to represent other employees.

Teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci adds,

The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves.

So those deemed free riders by the unions are really forced riders.

Having seen the union’s lies and intimidating ways up close and personal, I am hardly surprised at MEA’s hardball tactics. But it seems that the voters in states like Michigan and Wisconsin have awakened, perhaps signaling that worker freedom just may be the wave of the future.

Larry Sand, a retired teacher who taught in Los Angeles and NYC public schools for 28 years, is the president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. This post originally appeared as a guest column in the Orange County Register and is republished here with permission from the author.

Unraveling What Happened in Michigan

Now that the dust has settled, there are still some loose ends that need to be addressed in the Wolverine State’s right-to-work battle.

Last Tuesday, Michigan became the nation’s 24th right-to-work state. Much has been written about this and yet there still is much misinformation in circulation – mostly being spread by the unions, of course. And President Obama, an outspoken union supporter, has uttered some mistruths (if unintentional) or lies (if they are not).

What does “right-to-work (RTW)” mean? It simply means that workers don’t have to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. Many have publicly lamented that collective bargaining in Michigan is going to be imperiled. President Obama jumped on that bandwagon saying,

What we shouldn’t be doing is try to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. We don’t want a race to the bottom. Right-to-work laws have nothing to do with economics and they have everything to do with politics. They mean you have the right to work for less money.

No, Mr. Obama, Michigan’s new law – for better or worse – will not affect any union’s right to collectively bargain.

Another erroneous assertion – a long time mantra for organized labor – is that workers who choose not to join unions in RTW states are “freeloaders” or “free riders.” As Heritage Foundation’s James Sherk points out,

Unions object that right-to-work is actually “right-to-freeload.” The AFL-CIO argues “unions are forced by law to protect all workers, even those who don’t contribute financially toward the expenses incurred by providing those protections.” They contend they should not have to represent workers who do not pay their “fair share.”

It is a compelling argument, but untrue. The National Labor Relations Act does not mandate unions exclusively represent all employees, but permits them to electively do so. (Emphasis added.) Under the Act, unions can also negotiate “members-only” contracts that only cover dues-paying members. They do not have to represent other employees.

The Supreme Court has ruled repeatedly on this point. As Justice William Brennan wrote in Retail Clerks v. Lion Dry Goods, the Act’s coverage “is not limited to labor organizations which are entitled to recognition as exclusive bargaining agents of employees … ‘Members only’ contracts have long been recognized.”

Even though, as Sherk says, unions don’t have to represent all employees, they do so voluntarily to eliminate any competition. So instead of “free rider,” a better term would be “forced rider.” Teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci explains,

The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves. Making people pay for services they neither asked for nor want is a “privilege” we reserve for government, not for private organizations. Unions are freeloading on those additional dues.

…The “freeload” crack is especially ironic coming from MEA (Michigan Education Association), which ran an $11 million budget deficit in 2010-11 and is a cumulative $113 million in the red. In other words, the union has spent millions of dollars in dues it hasn’t collected yet, some of which will be paid by people who might not even be members yet. Who is freeloading?

In any event, it is undeniable that unions are taking it on the chin these days. In 2011, Wisconsin banned collective bargaining for some employees, and earlier this year Indiana became the 23rd RTW state. Michigan union leaders, well aware of the zeitgeist, tried to enshrine collective bargaining into the state constitution in November via Prop. 2. The amendment, however, was solidly defeated – 57 to 43 percent – even though the unions outspent the opposition by a 22:1 factor. (H/T John Seiler.)

What’s next for the unions in Michigan? Undoubtedly more thuggery and distortions, and then there is 2014. Last Tuesday, at a rally outside the building which houses Governor Rick Snyder’s office,

The main battle cry of the anti-right-to-work protesters…had a common theme: wait for 2014. Many of the GOP seats, including Snyder’s, will be up for grabs during the midterm elections. Rather than attempt to recall Republicans, as Wisconsin Democrats tried and failed to do to Gov. Scott Walker, the Michigan unions are set to mobilize behind Democrats and pro-union Republicans in two years.

But will the people of Michigan be taken in by the unions’ demagoguery? Organized labor is blaming their loss on everyone but themselves – the Koch Brothers, right wing legislators, the Tea Party et al. But as Kim Strassel in the Wall Street Journal points out,

The unions lost in Michigan—as they’ve lost elsewhere—because they and their White House compatriots have forced the issue, and in the process forced Americans to take a side. And what we’ve discovered is that when the choice is between more freedom for workers, more choice for parents and more tax dollars for vital services or, on the other side, more coercive powers for a special interest—well, that isn’t such a hard choice after all.

When all is said and done, it is instructive to examine why RTW is a good thing. First, despite Mr. Obama’s insistence to the contrary, RTW laws do indeed have a great deal to do with economics: they are beneficial.

According to the West Michigan Policy Forum, of the 10 states with the highest rate of personal income growth, eight have right-to-work laws. Those numbers are driving a net migration from forced union states: Between 2000 and 2010, five million people moved to right-to-work states from compulsory union states.

Other policies (such as no income tax) play a role in such migration, so economist Richard Vedder tried to sort out the variables. In the 2010 Cato Journal, he wrote that “without exception” he found “a statistically significant positive relationship” between right to work and net migration.

Mr. Vedder also found a 23% higher rate of per capita income growth in right-to-work states. An analysis by the Taxpayers Protection Alliance finds that Michigan is now the 35th state in overall prosperity measured by per capita income. Had Michigan adopted a right-to-work law in 1977, the group estimates, per capita income for a family of four would have been $13,556 higher by 2008. (Emphasis added.)

And secondly, RTW is a fairness issue for the worker.

… the best case for right to work is moral: the right of an individual to choose. Union chiefs want to coerce workers to join and pay dues that they then funnel to politicians who protect union power. Right to work breaks this cycle of government-aided monopoly union power for the larger economic good.

The question that unionistas can’t seem to come to grips with is this: if the unions are so beneficial, why must they force workers to sign on? The reality is that, given a choice, many workers will just say “no” and the unions will lose money and influence, their real raison d’être. And for the refuseniks, it is an uncoerced step on the road to freedom.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

Will Indiana Become the 23rd Right-to-Work State?

As the 2012 Indiana Legislative Assembly convenes, January will represent a tipping point for all Hoosiers’ individual freedoms as politicians and Big Labor draw battle lines to determine if Indiana will become the 23rd right-to-work state.

Common sense should make the outcome of such a battle obvious, as a right-to-work law ensures that every employee has freedom of choice against compulsory unionism and infringements on the right to one’s own property, i.e., your labor. Unfortunately, common sense needs some help with this oft misrepresented issue.

Under a right-to-work law, an employee would not be compelled to join a union as under current law. Additionally, “security clauses” or closed shops that require every employee to be a union member and “check-off clauses” requiring a company or government entity to collect union dues would be eliminated from collective-bargaining agreements. These punitive clauses basically guarantee union contracts for life, thus eliminating incentive to provide members viable products or services. Other than decertification, employees have no options or recourse from belonging to the union and paying dues, thereby perpetuating forced unionism.

A second form of forced unionism exists, one that sets the table for the perpetual forced-unionism model. As chronicled in my book, “The Devil at Our Doorstep,” unions utilize vicious corporate campaigns to force employees to unionize by pressuring employers to capitulate and sign a “neutrality agreement,” the genesis of the so-called “card check.” This agreement eliminates an employee’s right to a secret-ballot election, requiring employers to provide to union organizers information on all employees, including home addresses. Union organizers then utilize unscrupulous tactics, unmonitored by any government agency, to intimidate or otherwise force a bare majority of employees to sign union cards, at which time the employer is automatically unionized. The campaign depends on abuse, intimidation, improprieties and misinformation.

Despite historical claims of protecting the middle class, unions have essentially created an unsustainable system in both the private and public sectors, ultimately destroying the middle class they purport to support. The American auto and steel industries are prime examples of the unions’ destruction of viable industries. Consequently, we have seen a historical decline in the number of middle-class jobs in the auto and steel industries as well as the current threats facing public-sector employees.

Even so, big labor would have you believe they have an altruistic mission to provide people the right to be represented in the workplace. If unions were so concerned about peoples’ rights, you would think they would be in favor of right-to-work, allowing each employee freedom of choice. These unions, though, are nearly extinct and desperately need membership dues to elect sympathetic politicians who in turn will pass laws and appoint bureaucrats to utilize regulatory power to further their agenda. If unions are willing to force people to unionize, they will likely utilize the same tactics to keep them unionized, assuring their own survival at the expense of the economy, jobs and freedom of choice.

Again, right-to-work is an issue of the right to private property — one’s labor — which we as Hoosiers expect both sides of the aisle at the Statehouse to honor and defend. The right to private property is a triumph of Western Civilization, and the associated freedoms that come with it have proved to be extremely rewarding for those working hard to achieve the American dream.

Our founding fathers designed a marvelous system that guarantees social and economic justice by establishing individual responsibility. It is time for all Hoosiers to hold elected officials accountable to protect our individual freedoms and pass a right-to-work law.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.

Right to Work: A Basic American Freedom

Recent polls indicate Americans are fed up with Big Labor’s schoolyard bully tactics and utilization of taxpayer money to support political candidates and liberal agendas. Additionally, Americans are tired of government deficits driven by public sector pay, overblown benefits, and restrictive work rules. Americans, including union rank and file members, are tired of Big Labor’s attempt to deprive them of basic freedoms. They voiced their displeasure in last November’s election (see Union Members Not Happy with Their Leader’s Political Spending and Union Members Overwhelmingly Oppose Union Boss Political Spending on 2010 Midterm Elections). In states like Indiana, elected officials have heard the people’s mandate and are proposing “Right to Work” legislation (“RTW”) that will provide each and every American the right to personally decide if they wish to be represented by a union, without fearing the threat of reprisal. What could be more American than the freedom of choice?

Politicians and Big Labor bosses in Indiana, Michigan and New Hampshire are already drawing the battle lines for debate and potential passage of Right to Work (“RTW”) laws during their respective 2012 legislative assemblies. Determining which state will be next and become the 23rd Right to Work state is a matter of speculation. Unfortunately, we can be certain that the rhetoric, propaganda, misinformation and theatrics from liberal politicians and Big Labor bosses will be divisive.

As chronicled in my book The Devil at My Doorstep, I have first-hand experience with Big Labor’s tactics and their use of corporate campaigns. These campaigns were utilized against my company and its employees by the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”). These campaigns used as the union’s “Persuasion of Power,” a term originally coined by UAW President Owen Bieber in 1984, and later resurrected by former SEIU President Andy Stern during his tenure.

Union “Corporate Campaign” tactics utilize Saul Alinsky’s motto “Ridicule is man’s Greatest Weapon”. They isolate the target and then use intimidation, ridicule, misinformation and intimidation to destroy it.  The campaigns embrace the use of tactics, as recently exposed in a SEIU Contract Campaign Manual, designed to force employers to capitulate with union demands and sign a Neutrality Agreement. This onerous agreement eliminates employees right to a secret ballot election during union organizing campaigns, imposes “Card Check” and requires employers to provide a roster of all employees and their home addresses to union organizers. By use of the Neutrality Agreement, union organizers are able to bypass a neutral and independent election. Instead, the organizers are able to identify employees and “visit” them at their leisure, including at times and places private to the employee. This includes an employee’s home, where they can then utilize any tactics they wish, unmonitored by any government agencies. They can intimidate or otherwise force a bare majority (50 percent plus 1) of the employee population to sign union cards, at which time the employer is automatically unionized.  The scheme is fraught with danger of abuse, intimidation, improprieties and misinformation.

Corporate Campaigns allow unions to force unionize employees by pressuring employers, through expensive public and legal pressure, into signing the Neutrality Agreement and subsequently negotiating contracts that have the potential to make them uncompetitive. Forced unionism through Corporate Campaigns is today’s weapon of choice, as unions win a small percentage of organizational secret ballot elections conducted through the auspices of the National Labor Relations Board (“NLRB”). In short, Big Labor doesn’t care what employees believe or want, they are determined to force unionize and keep them for life through defeat of RTW. If Big Labor is more than willing to force unionize people, is there any doubt it will resort to the same tactics to keep them unionized, ensuring the ultimate survival of Big Labor power at the expense of the economy, jobs and freedom of choice?

This time the Corporate Campaign target is RTW in Indiana and other states. While the Big Labor circus performs in downtown Indianapolis during the legislative assembly set to begin January 4, 2012, it must be understood that RTW is not about the future of unions or the business climate of Indiana. RTW is about the basic God given right of every American to freedom of choice and each individual’s right and responsibility to self determination absent from the threat of intimidation and force. If unions cannot survive under these basic tenants, then so be it. Many institutions, organizations, civilizations, governments and inventions have become extinct as progress passes them by and relegates them to history. Big Labor’s Gasping Dinosaurs, who represent less than 12% of the workforce, are now waging a scorched earth campaign for survival at the expense of the very employees they claim to protect and at the expense of the most fundamental fabric of our country “freedom of choice.”

Big Labor would have you believe they have an altruistic mission to provide people the right to be represented in the workplace. However, if big labor was so concerned about peoples’ rights, why wouldn’t they be in favor of allowing each employee freedom of choice, as recently expressed by a non-union worker in a union company (see Republicans Didn’t Run When Democrats Were in Charge)? The simple answer is that Big Labor fears many will leave the union rolls because there is no intrinsic benefit to membership, resulting in the unions losing their coveted dues. Membership dues are the true objective. The labor unions are nearly extinct and they need membership dues to elect sympathetic politicians. In turn, these elected officials will pass laws or appoint members to the NLRB that will utilize their regulatory power to administer Big Labor’s agenda, thereby forcing unionism on more public and private employees (see Card Check through Regulation vs. Legislation, Actions Speak Louder than Words). In return, Big Labor will pour more membership dues into political coffers. It is a cycle passing monies from rank and file workers to Big Labor bosses and liberal politicians (see Union Power for Thee, But Not for Me).

RTW provides freedom of choice for employees and provides unions the opportunity to compete in a free market society without taxpayer or employee subsidies. Unions were necessary and beneficial at one point in history; however, they have hastened their own demise. Despite Big Labor’s claims of “protecting the middle class,” union demands have essentially created an unsustainable system due to out-of-control wages and benefits and restrictive work rules in both the private and public sectors, ultimately destroying the middle class they purport to support. The American auto and steel industries are prime examples of the unions’ destruction in viable industries and drastic reduction of the middle class jobs they claim to protect.

Simply put, in the private industry there are limits as to what the unions can obtain due to the competition companies face and the need for companies to be profitable. Public sector unions, however, believe the coffer is limitless, which is where they made their mistake. You can only tax the electorate so much before it rebels. When labor costs per person rise, the logical response to avoid bankruptcy is to reduce the number of jobs. Consequently we have seen a historical decline in the number of jobs in the auto and steel industries, and the current threats facing public school teachers and other public employees. It is the predictable result of the tactics and socialistic philosophy of Big Labor bosses.

Big Labor bosses also claim that RTW is unfair, as some people would benefit from union negotiations without paying union dues (see Should Workers Have to Pay Union Dues?). The real question is, why would so many people choose not to participate if they had a choice? If unions provided a viable service or product, employees would be more inclined to buy. However, many of today’s unions rarely provide meaningful benefits such as job and/or safety training, instead only emphasizing growth for the sake of growth, and ultimately money and power for Big Labor bosses. Union dues are viewed as a means to an end instead of an investment designed to improve the skills and safety of its membership.

Unions would fare better if they spent more time developing products and services that would benefit both employees and employers. The typical response of a labor union is to lean solely on the excuse that every employee has the right to “collective bargaining.” However, if unions utilized membership dues to provide a viable product or service, they might be able to attract enough employees to form a collective bargaining unit that was engaged, instead of resorting to forced unionism of people who are not interested. Unfortunately, the goal of Big Labor bosses is not to serve its members, but to impose its will on the Indiana public, sacrificing  freedom of choice for over 70% of Indiana employees who support RTW (see Viewpoint Poll and Hoosiers Support Freedom), the true opportunity for effective and beneficial union growth and triumph of the free market system. A triumph that would result in a competitive business atmosphere, spawning increased job opportunities and economic growth for the citizens of Indiana and throughout the United States.

Ultimately, it is an issue of the right to private property, one’s labor. It is an issue which we expect both sides of the aisle at the statehouse to honor and defend. It is also imperative that both sides respect the democratic process and return to the State House on January 4, 2012 prepared to do the peoples’ will and debate openly, instead of hiding in hotel rooms in Illinois (see Gov. Mitch Daniels Vows to Make Sure Indiana Lawmakers get Work Done).

The right of private property is a triumph of Western Civilization, and the associated freedoms that come with it have proven to be extremely rewarding for those who work hard to achieve the American dream. Our founding fathers designed a marvelous system that guarantees social and economic justice by establishing individual responsibility. We can only hope that our elected officials will wake up and protect our property rights before it is too late. After all, Right to Work is the right thing to do for the citizens of Indiana and the United States of America.

About the author: David A. Bego is the President and CEO of EMS, an industry leader in the field of environmental workplace maintenance, employing nearly 5000 workers in thirty-three states. Bego is the author of “The Devil at My Doorstep,” based on his experiences fighting back against one of the most powerful unions in existence today.