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Another View -- Tom McCabe: Time is now for organized labor reforms in New Hampshire

January 04. 2017 5:41PM

Shortly after taking office with Republican majorities in 2011, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker set out to address the state’s budget crisis by reforming a major cost driver of the state’s enormous deficit. Exploding public employee compensation, pensions and health care costs were the inevitable result of collective bargaining between powerful government unions and the politicians they helped elect.

Liberals thought Walker and his GOP allies had given them a gift that would mobilize their base and return Democrats to power in Madison, so they attempted to send Walker packing in a recall election.

But a funny thing happened. Walker was re-elected by a margin greater than his original victory. In the meantime, government employees abandoned the unions in droves. Private-sector workers followed suit after Walker and Republicans passed right to work legislation in 2015. Similar scenes were repeated in Michigan.

With their dues-financed political war chests decimated, union boss clout withered and Donald Trump became the first Republican since Reagan to win both states. And it was relatively strong support from union households that helped deliver those victories to Trump.

The message is clear in the Granite State. Let New Hampshire workers keep their hard earned money and free them from mandatory union membership, and you will be rewarded at the polls.

At Freedom Foundation, we know from our personal conversations with workers that most would prefer to keep the money they currently pay to their union rather than let the leadership spend it in support of politicians and causes with whom they disagree.

Since we began informing workers in Washington State of their right to opt out of union dues, more than 9,300 have chosen to do just that, costing the local SEIU more than $10 million that would otherwise be spent largely on partisan politicking.

Now, the window of opportunity has been flung wide open for a range of state legislative fixes that could restore the rights of millions of public employees all across the country, while reining in the undue influence government unions have had over state budgets and the political process at every level for generations.

In New Hampshire, with Republicans in control of both legislative chambers and incoming Gov. Chris Sununu, the road is clear to enact real, pro-worker, pro-taxpayer union reforms.

States around the country can break the grip of union bosses on state government and put power back in the hands of workers with these four bold actions:

Workers’ voting rights.

Once certified it’s all but impossible to remove a union, no matter how unpopular it may be with its members. Most currently unionized public employees have never had the opportunity to vote on union representation, having simply inherited a pre-existing union. Public employees should be able to vote regularly on the union’s fitness to represent them.

Right-to-work and free agency.

Public employees can be fired for refusing to pay union dues. Passing right to work and allowing public employees to choose whether to join a union and pay dues without fear of losing their job is an important step in the right direction. So is allowing workers to negotiate terms of employment with their employer directly as free agents.

Collective bargaining transparency.

Government unions and public employers are allowed to negotiate contracts behind closed doors.

That would be wrong under any circumstances, but it’s all the more so when the union leaders are negotiating with politicians they helped put in office. Both taxpayers and union members deserve to see how those negotiations play out.

Ending release time.

Government union contracts often require public employers to pay the salary of union officials.

This giveaway of tax dollars is indefensible.

Taxpayers should never be forced to pay the salary of someone working for the union. That’s what union dues are for.

Voters across the country, including large numbers in union households, have put Republicans in power because they are fed up with the old way of doing business in Washington, D.C., and in state capitols from coast to coast.

Republicans in New Hampshire can show that they got the message.

Tom McCabe is the chief executive officer of the Freedom Foundation, a non-profit, public policy research organization founded in 1991.

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