For decades, a teacher’s union has forced public school teacher Rebecca Friedrichs to subsidize union activities that run counter to her beliefs. When she finally sued the union to enforce her constitutional rights to free association and speech, her case made it all the way to the nation’s highest court. Her case comes to an end this week, with the Supreme Court’s 4-4 vote maintaining the status quo. Now that it’s clear that the first amendment rights at play in Rebecca’s case will not be recognized any time soon, it’s critical that all unionized government employees have access to fair union elections.
Kansas is taking a step in the right direction. The Kansas Senate just passed a bill that would give teachers the right to vote for their union on a regular basis. In most states, including Kansas and Missouri, once a union takes control of a group of public employees, such as teachers or firefighters, that union remains in power indefinitely. There is no election every two or four years whereby workers can hold their union accountable. If workers want to remove a union from power, they need to organize again and go through a difficult “decertification” process.
If individual employees of our public institutions are going to be forced to subsidize a union, we need to protect them from unaccountable union executives. Unions can force people to pay for their services on the theory that an individual’s rights can be curtailed for “workplace democracy.” So let’s ensure there’s democracy. Require unions to run for re-election every couple of years. This is how democracy works.