Survey shows 28 percent of union workers would opt out of membership

The Nevada Policy Research Institute and the Association of American Educators released results of a 27-state survey of union households on Friday showing that 28.7 percent of union workers would opt out of membership if given the choice.

The survey found that 66.9 percent of union members believed that a worker should be able to opt out of membership and represent themselves in negotiations with an employer – an idea that has come to be known as “worker’s choice.” Worker’s choice is meant to free both the employee from being forced into union membership and the union from having to represent a non-member in collective bargaining contracts, according to the Michigan based Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

According to the survey, nearly half of union workers who don’t want to leave their union believe other workers should have that right.

Nationally, labor unions have faced increasing pressure as more states enact right-to-work legislation, which allows workers the option of leaving or never joining a labor union without sacrificing their livelihood. West Virginia, formerly a bastion of union power due to its mining industry, recently passed right-to-work legislation. It was the 26th state to allow workers the ability to work for unionized employers without being forced into union membership.

Right-to-work legislation also allows union members to leave a union they feel does not represent their best interests but still keep their job. Unions use member dues to contribute to state and national political campaigns with almost all of the funds going to the Democratic Party and “liberal groups,” according to figures compiled by Open Secrets.

The survey kicks off National Employee Freedom Week, “a national effort to inform union employees about the freedoms they have to opt out of union membership and let them make the decision that’s best for them.”

Although Connecticut was not one of the states surveyed by NPRI and AAE, the National Employee Freedom Week website does list two methods by which Connecticut employees can opt out of union membership.

In Connecticut, employees can become an “agency fee payer,” which means they only pay for the union costs of collective bargaining, contract administration and employee grievances. Fee payers are not considered a part of the union.

Union members in Connecticut are allowed to opt out of paying for union political activities in order to preserve their First Amendment rights. According to this option is the result of the 1988 Communications Workers of America v. Beck Supreme Court ruling. The decision “restricted unions from collecting dues for political activities if a union member chooses to opt out.”

The second method of opting out of union membership is to become a religious or conscientious objector, in which case the money an employee would have paid in dues is sent to a charitable fund.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute is a non-profit think tank in Las Vegas Nevada that promotes “principles of limited government, individual liberty and free markets.” The Association of American Educators is a national non-union association of professional educators.

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