Unions limit workers’ freedom of association
Beacon CEO Justin Owen co-authored a new op-ed in the Tennessean discussing workers’ rights and how the unions are hampering those rights. With the window for withdrawing from a teachers’ union coming up soon, this op-ed informs the public how difficult it is for teachers to resign from the union. By Justin Owen and J.C. Bowman Earlier this month, the United Auto Workers proved once again how out of touch it is with the very people it is supposed to be representing by issuing subpoenas to individuals who disagree with them. Despite its subsequent withdrawal of the subpoenas, the union continues to show it is more interested in going after its detractors than in improving the lives of the workers whose dues pay for its activity. If the union continues to ignore the will of the people, you can expect more votes similar to the one in February when Volkswagen Chattanooga workers rejected UAW’s attempt to unionize their plant. We believe that our editorial last year promoting National Employee Freedom Week played a big role in how this issue was covered. At that time, the Beacon Center and Professional Educators of Tennessee made the case that labor policy in America is fundamentally flawed, and it remains so today. There is an ill-founded theory that working Tennesseans are somehow incapable of making their own decisions and pursuing their own best interests. This theory, advanced by the likes of the UAW, insists that individuals need union bosses to negotiate on their behalf and demand dues paid to these middlemen for their “services.” In many cases, the union’s ability to intervene in an employee’s decision-making is done with the backing of government. Yet, government should never grant preferential treatment to members of favored political groups, including associations or unions. Like most Tennesseans, we believe that all employees should be free to decide if an organization deserves their financial support. We believe that no employee should be prevented from joining an association or union of his or her choosing. Likewise, no employee should ever be forced to pay for unwanted “representation” by any group. Employees who are satisfied with their current union are free to keep their membership and continue supporting it financially. Many employees — perhaps most — are not union zealots and do not agree with their union on numerous issues. However, the ability to resign from the union is made extremely difficult, even in most right-to-work states like Tennessee. Unions often will use any legal means at their disposal to combat members who want to resign. Take, for example, the difficulty in terminating automatic drafts to pay membership dues. Unions often place a narrow window of opportunity for employees to drop union membership and escape the requirement of paying union dues or fees. For educators, that date may be limited to April, May, June, or July and is designed to be inconveniently timed for members. Educators in Tennessee should check this very carefully, as there may be a “now or never” clause for withdrawing financial support of their union. This policy — offering a very narrow window to resign from a union — effectively forces workers to continue paying for representation that they may deem unwarranted or downright opposed to their viewpoints and interests. Just as employees should be free to join a union whenever they see fit, they should also be free to resign from that union at any time, especially when the union ceases to represent their viewpoints. Until this practice is ended and employees are truly free to associate, unions will continue to abuse their relationships with workers and manipulate their membership in a way that advances the union leaders’ interest to the detriment of the workers who are funding their agenda. As long as unions continue to put roadblocks in place to prevent their members from exercising their freedom of association, we will continue raising awareness of this misguided policy that is harmful to workers, and harmful to Tennessee.