Don't Forget: It's Labor Day, Not Union Day | Opinion

This Labor Day, we should, once again, be celebrating the accomplishments of the American worker. Yet every year, and especially with a national election just two months away, union bosses inevitably attempt to steal the spotlight from rank-and-file workers in order to argue for more government-granted powers over the very workers they claim to represent.

Instead of buying into union bosses' self-serving notion of the holiday, let's celebrate the workers fighting to free themselves from Big Labor coercion—and the historic decade it's been for their individual rights.

Since 2012, five states—Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin, West Virginia and Kentucky—have added right-to-work protections that ensure union membership and financial support are strictly voluntary. That's a greater number of new right-to-work states than any decade since the 1950s, bringing the total to 27 states nationwide.

And in 2018, former Illinois child support specialist Mark Janus won the Janus v. AFSCME case at the U.S. Supreme Court with the help of National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.

Mark just wanted to do his job without having to pay tribute to AFSCME union bosses, and when the Supreme Court agreed with him that union officials violated his First Amendment rights by requiring him to subsidize their activities, his case freed millions of government sector workers across the country from the scourge of forced union fees.

Although union officials bristle at the heightened levels of accountability that come with letting workers decide individually whether or not to financially support a labor union, the American people overwhelmingly support giving workers a choice. Poll after poll shows that at least eight in 10 Americans oppose forced union dues and affiliation.

Securing workers' free choice when it comes to supporting a union also yields significant economic benefits. An analysis of government data by the National Institute for Labor Relations Research found that in 2018, the last year for which household income data is currently available, the cost of living-adjusted after-tax mean income for households in right-to-work states clocked in at almost $4,300 higher than household incomes of forced-unionism states.

Workers protesting in May 2020
Workers protesting in May 2020 VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

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) that forced-unionism states had over the same time period. It's clear that protecting the right to work is not only the way to respect individual workers' choices, but that it also rewards citizens with economic success.

Unfortunately, union officials continue to resist the push toward worker choice. Rather than embrace voluntary unionism, they continue to seek to use their political influence to restore and even expand their coercive powers—while systematically blocking workers from exercising their newly recognized rights.

For example, two years on, the fight to enforce Janus is far from over. While Foundation-won lawsuits have successfully freed tens of thousands of public employees, millions more continue to be subjected to "escape period" schemes that block workers from exercising their First Amendment rights—sometimes for years at a time outside of brief, arbitrary, union-imposed opt-out periods.

Meanwhile, over 50 ongoing lawsuits seek the return of hundreds of millions of dollars seized from hundreds of thousands of worker victims, whose money has never been returned despite the Supreme Court definitively ruling it was taken in violation of their constitutional rights.

The workers bringing these lawsuits, like so many others, have seen firsthand how union officials continue to prioritize their own power over the legal rights of rank-and-file workers. The indisputable fact is neither the Janus decision nor state right-to-work laws can stop a single worker from voluntarily joining or paying dues to a union if he/she choose to do so.

This Labor Day, reject the union boss talking points that claim workers must be denied that freedom to choose. The real heroes of Labor Day are the rank-and-file workers who stand up for their rights in the face of Big Labor coercion.

Mark Mix is president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

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