NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Worker's Choice Can Improve Right-to-Work Laws

June 9, 2015

Right-to-work laws give workers the choice over whether to financially support the union organized in their workplace. Unions often claim this creates a "free rider" problem, even though they have lobbied in the past for the ability to represent all workers in a bargaining unit. Similarly, nonmember employees may not want the union to interfere in disputes with employers, believing they could manage the situation better on their own.

Despite these opposing viewpoints on the free/forced rider problem, the solution is relatively simple: Allow workers who opt out of unions to represent themselves - "Worker's Choice." Under this policy, public sector employees in unionized workplaces would choose one of two options:

  • Be a union member and accept the working conditions negotiated by the union.
  • Opt out of union membership and negotiate for compensation and working conditions independently.

Worker's Choice aims to provide the following benefits:

  • It will increase freedom for workers. Nonmember public employees will be both free to completely disassociate themselves from a group they do not wish to support and free to negotiate their own preferred method of compensation and working conditions.
  • It will fix the free/forced rider issue. Eliminating public sector unions' duty of fair representation would address one major objection unions commonly make about right-to-work laws.
  • It will boost public sector productivity. With the freedom to negotiate their own methods of compensation, nonmember employees could be compensated based in part on their productivity, which, in turn, could have a positive impact on the entire workplace.
  • It will make unions more responsive to workers' needs. Unions will have to provide enough benefits to members to genuinely earn their support, which will in turn benefit union members.

This policy also would be relatively simple to legislate, requiring only small changes to a state's public sector bargaining law.

Source: F. Vincent Vernuccio, "Worker's Choice: Freeing Unions and Workers from Forced Representation," Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 2015.


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