There are many commemorative “awareness weeks” that bring people’s attention to a wide variety of issues. For example, the first week of September is Idiopathic Hypersomnia Awareness Week, a worldwide event dedicated to educating people about idiopathic hypersomnia, a rare neurological sleep disorder. The third full week in October is National Map Reading Week, an educational awareness week about the virtues of possessing map-reading skills. And who can forget about National Dairy Goat Awareness Week? Choosing to ignore that event would be a baaaaaa-d idea! (Sorry.)
While all these events have their virtues — some more than others, of course — one awareness week is perhaps more important than all the rest: National Employee Freedom Week. This year NEFW ran from August 20 to 26, dedicated to promoting workers’ rights, especially union workers’ rights.
Founded in 2012 by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, National Employee Freedom Week is a national effort to inform union employees of their right to choose whether to join a union or remain independent. Throughout the week, experts educate workers about their options, which have in the past often been deliberately concealed, so they know what they can do when their local union organizer visits their workplace. The effort is paying off, too, as an increasingly larger number of people in every state are now choosing to assert their right to say “no” to union membership as they learn more about employee freedom.
Organized labor represents a shrinking portion of the U.S. workforce, making the fight against workplace freedom that much more urgent for the people directly benefitting from union membership: highly paid union bosses. Union leaders’ paychecks ultimately come from extracting union dues from members’ paychecks, not actual work on the factory floor, so labor bosses have a selfish reason to fear an increase in worker-freedom awareness.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one out of every five employed Americans in 1983 was part of a union. In 2016, only one out of every 10 workers was a member of a union. Just 6.4 percent of individuals in the private sector were union members.
Research by Richard Vedder, a distinguished professor of economics at Ohio University and a former economic adviser to President Ronald Reagan, suggests right-to-work (RTW) laws have helped to promote both individual and overall prosperity in states passing such laws. In his analyses of the economies of states with and without RTW worker protections, Vedder found that “the overall effect of a RTW law is to increase economic growth rates by 11.5 percentage points,” an effect “significant at the 99 percent confidence level.”
The study also found individuals’ fortunes are tied to economic freedom. Vedder determined the income difference between those living and working in right-to-work states and those in compulsory-unionism states was more than $3,200 per person per year, or $13,112 per year for a family of four.
“It is the difference between sending your children to a low-cost, nearby community college and sending them to live four years at the state’s flagship university or even a private college,” Vedder wrote. “That is the difference between, say, living in a three-bedroom home with one car and taking only one, short, nearby vacation [and] living in a larger four-bedroom home with two cars and taking a longer European vacation or a cruise.”
Keeping workers in the dark about their rights and trapped in unions may make sense for unions in the short term, but it’s irrational for those concerned about long-term economic growth. Compulsory-membership states with neighbors with right-to-work laws experience “a giant sucking sound,” as businesses relocate across the border to states with economic climates more welcoming to job growth. Promoting pro-growth policies are in unions’ best interests, yet many unions oppose policies proven to create new jobs and boost workers’ prosperity.
If unions were forced to compete for workers’ dollars by providing better services and workers were then to decide the cost of union membership is worth the price, increased job growth could translate into more people choosing to join a union. Because union bosses are afraid workers now or will soon think unions’ membership costs exceed their value, they attempt to keep workers uneducated about their rights.Lawmakers in every state need to consider the following: If unions are so beneficial for workers, why isn’t every week in every state National Employee Freedom Week?