As America pauses for Labor Day weekend, the right to work movement is looking to keep up its momentum following a major Supreme Court victory in June and shake off a stinging defeat at the ballot box in Missouri.
Earlier this summer, by a 5-4 in Janus v. AFSCME, the high court overturned a 1977 decision requiring non-union public sector employees to pay union dues. The court found that forcing those non-members to pay dues infringed upon their freedom of speech.
“In the 23 states that don’t have right to work laws, every single government employee in the country is now protected from being fired from their jobs for failure to tender dues or fees to a private organization,” said National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation President Mark Mix.
Mix points out the Supreme Court decision does not forbid non-union employees from paying dues. It simply gives them the choice of paying or not paying. His organization is trying to educate government employees about their options through a website called myjanusrights.org.
Mix says he is getting plenty of anecdotal evidence of employees refusing to pay dues any longer but we won’t have any concrete data until the labor unions issue their reports. However, he says places like Wisconsin, which adopted right to work laws in 2011 and 2015, give us a good preview.
“We have found that in some local unions that over 67 percent of the workers have decided to exercise their rights under the right to work protections that exist in the state. That’s the type of protection that’s now offered to every government employee in every state across the country,” said Mix.
Organized labor is fighting back.
“Instead of trying to go out and figure out how they can better serve workers who can now join them voluntarily, they are trying to establish workarounds. In fact, in seven states they’ve passed laws that they think are going to stop people from exiting the union,” said Mix.
California requires all government employees to attend an all-day seminar run by labor unions to convince people to keep paying dues. New York, Delaware, and Hawaii have all enacted measures designed to circumvent the impact of the Janus decision.
“All of these efforts on their part are going back to government, trying to use government as a fence to keep people in as opposed to finding a way to better serve them so that more people will join voluntarily,” said Mix.
Less than two months after the Supreme Court decision, right to work forces suffered a major electoral defeat in Missouri. In 2017, the state legislature adopted right to work legislation but Democrats and unions exercised what’s known as a “veto referendum.”
By getting enough petition signatures, they placed the issue on the August primary ballot and the right to work legislation was rejected by nearly 30 percentage points.
“Union officials were able to defeat the enforcement of the right to work law, so the right to work law is not in effect even though it did pass the legislature,” said Mix.
Mix points out the labor unions, which bring in $194 million per year in Missouri, spent roughly $20 million on the referendum campaign while the right to work forces managed less than three million dollars.
He also says the campaign against the law was disingenuous.
“The distortions about right to work were so amazing. The only thing that didn’t get talked about was the right to work law simply saying that you couldn’t be compelled to pay dues or fees to a union to get or keep a job. Everything else the union officials put up was about anything other than the freedom that right to work laws provide,” said Mix.
Just this past week, the right to work movement watched Republicans agree to keep an ardent opponent of theirs on the National Labor Relations Board. In an effort to move the nominations of fifteen judicial nominees through to confirmation, President Trump agreed to nominate Obama appointee Mark Gaston Pearce for another term on the NLRB.
Mix says the compromise shows just how much liberals are willing to give up on the judicial front to keep one of their staunchest allies fighting against the right to work.
“This is how important this seat is to the organized labor officials in the Democrat party because of the money that flows from their forced dues privileges. They’re willing to trade one member of the National Labor Relations Board for filling up the Department of Labor, adding federal judges. That shows you how important this is,” said Mix.
Mix is not giving up on the fight over Pearce and will push the Senate to reject the nomination in the coming months.