The Alliance for Worker Freedom — a relatively new offshoot of Americans for Tax Reform — released its first-ever “Index of Worker Freedom, A National Report Card” last week, a state-by-state summary of workers rights. (Download report here.)
These sorts of rankings are admittedly arbitrary projects: Which data do you choose for your system? Still, the results of this one correlate with our general sense of things. The top five states for worker freedoms: Utah, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, South Carolina. The bottom five (starting with the worst): Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New York, Minnesota and Hawaii. Connecticut also got an F grade.
The interesting methodology used by the Alliance is the heavy emphasis on public employees. For example, the ratings factor in “paycheck protection” — freedom-friendly laws that prevent government union from spending fees or dues for political contributions — as well as defined contribution plans (good), collective bargaining rights for public employees (bad), and public sector unionization (the higher the percentage, the less freedom).
But those choices make sense. With private-sector union membership falling, unions are turning their energies more and more toward the government sector. For example, governors are pushing through “card check” unionizing for public employees (see Oregon), trying to win points with organized labor while building up momentum for federal legislation on private-sector card check.
Expanding public-sector unionization is particularly noxious because, unlike the private sector, labor demands do not have natural checks against excessivenes. As Bob Williams, president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation writes in the preface,
The emergence of these public-sector unions has serious consequences for the scope, cost, and size of government. Unlike a private business that has limited resources to cover its costs, government can increase its resources by raising taxes. Paying an inefficient bureaucracy with taxpayer money is generally easier than fixing the problems of inefficiency.
Public-sector unions leverage their secure source of income and collective bargaining authority to drive a three-pronged strategy to maintain and expand their power. They elect politicians and government officials through campaign support, create policies to maintain and expand union power and influence, and lobby favorable officials to implement the policies.
Williams concludes that public-sector unionization is a major issue that state lawmakers must consider as they review their states’ economic environment.
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