Idaho isn’t one of the 22 states where public employees will immediately benefit from the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus ruling, which gives government workers new choices and restores their right of free speech. Nonetheless, the ruling should serve as a wakeup call to Idaho and other states where labor unions have been given legal standing and an insane amount of power with precious little accountability.
The Supreme Court upheld the right of government workers not to be coerced into paying union dues. I support the Supreme Court’s decision and would go a few steps farther. I assert that labor unions shouldn’t be allowed to negotiate for public sector employees. Even FDR opposed the same, arguing, in part, that the people are the government, and they thus held both sides of the bargaining table.
Roosevelt wrote, “Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.”
Idaho could outright ban public labor unions from collective bargaining. Five states already do. Not so long ago, Wisconsin famously limited the scope of labor union negotiations. Idaho could proceed in that direction.
Alternatively, Idaho could take some easy steps to protect public employees from labor-union abuse of power.
For example, Idaho requires school boards to enter into negotiations with labor unions so long as the union can prove that a majority of the school district’s professional employees want to be represented by that union. Proving such support exists isn’t much of a problem; unions use a Big Labor strong-arm tactic called “card check” to get the majority it needs in order for it to engage in negotiations. The problem with card check is that it’s a process wherein employees are cornered and told to sign something to indicate that they’re OK with the labor union negotiating on their behalf.
Card check needs to end. Idaho’s constitution places a premium on a secret ballot. School employees and firefighters, the only public employees covered by Idaho’s labor union statutes, should be allowed to vote — by secret ballot — whether they want to be represented by a union.
Further, school boards should be given the option of deciding whether they want to negotiate with a union or not. Idaho lawmakers like to say they believe in local control. Indeed, even the Idaho School Boards Association fights tooth and nail for local control — except when it comes to a school board deciding whether to enter into labor negotiations with the union.
Additionally, some unions have been at the collective bargaining table for decades. There’s no real process in Idaho for public employees to be able to select who represents them. There’s an assumption that the organizations that have always represented employees should continue to represent employees. Competing organizations, such as Northwest Professional Educators, are often shut out of public buildings and denied the right to communicate with Idaho employees about the benefits of joining a different group.
Finally, the state should not allow unions to use government resources in myriad ways. Throughout Idaho, cities and school districts let labor organizations use taxpayer resources to collect union dues. If the unions wish to collect dues from their members, unions should do what other organizations do — collect the money themselves. Union employees are also often granted leave time, at taxpayer expense, to conduct union business. This, too, needs to stop.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus case will have landmark, positive benefits for American workers. Idaho and other states should now do their part, to further protect government employees and taxpayers from Big Labor’s abuses.
Written by Wayne Hoffman, the executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation.