Unions, if you are sick of ‘free riders,’ do something about it

It is baffling to me that teachers’ union leadership continues to resort to name-calling when educators decide union membership isn’t the right decision for them.

First, I am not aware of any educator who wants to be a “free loader” or “free rider” or take advantage of others. Teachers are in the education field often because of their desire to serve others.

Second, the teachers’ union fought for — and won — the right to represent all employees within the collective bargaining unit, regardless of union membership status. Because of exclusive representation rights as a matter of law, the union collectively bargains on behalf of both members and non-members. But despite choosing to represent non-members, the union complains it is a “problem” — one they created themselves.

Why don’t they try to solve it, then?

The union could lobby — as it does on many other things — to change the long-standing statutory right of government unions to exclusively represent all employees in a bargaining unit. This would then allow the union to represent only its members, and employees who didn’t want to belong to the union would be able to negotiate on their own behalf.

“In what should be a win-win situation, unions would only represent their members and could tailor their services around these members,” writes Stephen Delie with the Mackinac Center. “Meanwhile, non-members wouldn’t be bound by the terms negotiated by the union. Every employee would have a choice about how they’re represented in the workplace.”

But that would involve the union giving up its monopolistic privilege of exclusive agency. And unions are opposed to giving our civil servants a real choice about union representation, continues Delie, demanding instead “the continuation of an antiquated system based on coercion.”

Under the current law, employees who do not want union representation are forced to accept it. The result is a system where a worker who opposes the union, either on ideological grounds or because the union isn’t providing a service worth the price of union dues, has no voice.

Teachers have not had the opportunity to vote for, or against, union representation in many years. The union speaks for them, in their name, and on their behalf.

The 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Janus v. AFSCME at least now allows public employees “to not have to pay for their legally mandated silence,” notes Delie. Minnesota teachers no longer have to financially support a union in order to keep their job. If you are an educator who does not feel the union is prioritizing your workplace needs, you can opt-out during the month of September and get $2 million in liability insurance for a fraction of the cost of dues, without any politics.

The union’s “free rider” claims are disparaging and disingenuous and a red herring argument against solutions that would encourage and expand worker freedom.