Big Labor has Biden Ignoring the Wishes of 8 in 10 Americans | Opinion

A lot of labor's agenda—repealing right-to-work laws, establishing sectoral bargaining—is unpopular." With that acknowledgement in a July interview with New York Magazine, the Obama 2012 campaign's "data guru" and "whiz kid" David Shor said out loud what normally is left unsaid among organized labor's political allies.

Big Labor's influence is not based on widespread support for its policies, but on its unique status as a special interest group. In fact, the biggest source of unions' influence—their officials' unique power to compel rank-and-file workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment—is also the clearest reason voters oppose union bosses' coercive agenda.

Already, 27 states have enacted right-to-work protections for workers, with five states adding such laws in the last eight years. These laws codify the common-sense principle that every worker should have the choice to join a labor union, but no worker should be forced to join or subsidize a union as a condition of employment.

Simply put, in states without these protections, a worker can be fired solely for refusing to pay dues or fees to a union. In right-to-work states, such payments must be voluntary.

With voluntary dues, workers can withhold financial support from a union that is corrupt, ineffective or that puts its institutional interests ahead of what is best for workers. This accountability defends workers' rights—for union members and non-union workers alike.

But the benefits of right-to-work laws aren't limited to the workers whose freedom of choice they protect. They also have a proven track record of economic benefits.

According to a National Institute for Labor Relations Research report drawing on data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 the cost of living-adjusted after-tax mean household income in right-to-work states was about $4,300 higher than the average for households in forced unionism states. The same study found that the number of people employed in right-to-work states grew by 16.9 percent from 2009 to 2019, nearly double the increase (9.6 percent) forced-unionism states had over the same period.

Freedom of choice for workers, accountability for union officials, more money in workers' pockets and more jobs created. What's not to like about that?

UAW strike
Parents and students join teachers for a strike rally in front of the progressive private school Brooklyn Friends after the teachers union declared a strike, October 5, 2020 in downtown Brooklyn. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis/Getty

It is not surprising that extensive polling repeatedly demonstrates that around 8 in 10 Americans support right-to-work laws. In fact, polling has found that a similar percentage of union members agree that union membership and dues payment should be voluntary and not required as a condition of employment.

The support for worker freedom transcends partisan politics. The most recent Gallup poll to break down right-to-work support by party affiliation found that 65 percent of Democrats, 74 percent of Republicans and 77 percent of Independents all favored right-to-work laws.

All of which proves Shor's point: right-to-work laws are popular and forced union dues aren't. Yet forced unionism's unpopularity barely seems to matter to the many politicians willing to ignore the widespread support of right to work in favor of the backing of union bosses who'd rather not have to worry about attracting the voluntary support of those they claim to represent.

But what makes politicians choose this special interest group over the demands of voters?

In large part due to their power to compel workers to pay up or else be fired, union officials collect tens of billions of dollars in dues and fees from workers. That in turn, according to union officials' own filings, funds $2 billion in political and lobbying expenditures every two-year election cycle.

Union-funded politicians thank union brass by bending the law in their favor—at the expense of workers. The corrupt cycle benefits politicians and union bureaucrats while harming American workers and our economy more broadly.

Look no further than Joe Biden's campaign. An issue that polls well among Democrats, Republicans, Independents and union households seems like a no-brainer. Yet Biden has pledged to eradicate right-to-work laws in the 27 states that currently prohibit forced union dues and fees as a condition of employment by federal fiat, among a laundry list of other special powers he would grant to union bosses.

Forced dues may buy Big Labor influence in the halls of Washington, but it doesn't change the fact that Americans overwhelmingly agree that union dues and affiliation should be voluntary, not coerced. Pro-right-to-work candidates for office would be wise to remember this and highlight the position of any opponent who shares Biden's disdain for giving workers the freedom to decide whether to pay union dues.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Committee.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.