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Equally serious is the likely increase in strikes, which have typically increased four-fold after states approved monopoly union bargaining. Although the bill includes a strike ban, such laws rarely work since unions typically demand an amnesty before ordering members to return to work. Former Rep. William Clay, Sr. (D-Mo.), co-sponsor of a previous version of H.R. 980, acknowledged: “Most states now have legislation prohibiting strikes but, in effect, in reality, they have not stopped strikes.”
H.R. 980 also would preclude state and local governments from placing critical issues beyond negotiation. Under the proposed legislation, public employers would have to negotiate on every topic other than state “right-to-work” laws and pension benefits.
Yet public safety work raises unique issues. For instance, Michigan and Wisconsin deal with public employee unions, but the former requires merit-based promotions for police officers; the latter applies that principle to most of its workforce. Notes James Sherk: “Unions strongly support seniority systems and insist on them in negotiations, but police officers and other public safety employees ought to earn their raises.”
Another pernicious impact of H.R. 980 would be to virtually end the practice of professional firefighters also serving as volunteers. Although professionals typically take the lead in more urbanized areas, they are a minority: only 12 percent of the nation’s 30,000 fire departments are made up entirely or primarily of professionals. Many areas continue to rely heavily on volunteers, who make up nearly three-quarters of all firefighters. About half of the latter are professionals who volunteer as well, saving their fellow citizens an estimated $37 billion annually.
Notes Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee: “officers of the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) union locals have an extensive track record of exploiting their monopoly power to punish ‘two-hatters,’ professional firefighters who serve their own local communities as volunteer firefighters when they aren’t on the job.” Indeed, professionals who volunteer often are subject to union discipline, including firing.
Moreover, when possible, the IAFF negotiates contracts which ban volunteering by professionals, even on their own time. Federalizing local labor relations would assist IAFF in its prohibition efforts.
H.R. 980 would have another pernicious impact, effectively opening the wallets of hundreds of thousands of public employees to union officials for use in political campaigns from city hall to the White House. Public employees are theoretically guaranteed the right to withhold dues devoted to partisan purposes. In practice unions impede workers from exercising this right at every turn. Expanding forced union representation across the nation would create yet another employee piggy bank for organized labor.
Ironically, while federal legislators are considering ordering states and localities to accept monopoly public employee unions, the federal government does not do so. There are no unions for the armed services, CIA, DIA, FBI, Secret Service or related security agencies. Nor are employees of the Transportation Safety Administration unionized, though the Democrats have been pressing to overturn that ban. Most everyone recognizes that there are good reasons to keep security positions free from union politics.
If employees want to join a union, they should be free to do so. But they should not be free to force their union on other workers or employers, especially in sensitive public safety positions. Even more so, the federal government should not decide labor policy for every city, county, and state in America. It is time for Washington to mind its own business.
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