94 Percent of Union Members Didn't Vote for the Union that Represents Them

ORLANDO, FL — Labor reform activists at Americans for Prosperity's Defending the American Dream Summit on Saturday argued that unions should represent their workers, and referenced a recent study showing that 94 percent of union members across America did not vote for the union which represents them.

"There's a new study that just came out in time for Labor Day, and this is a pretty alarming statistic," declared Akash Chougule, AFP's director of policy. "94 percent of union members in the United States did not vote for the union that represents them. They either simply inherited it from when it was voted in decades ago, or they voted 'no' when it came up for election."

This number comes from a Heritage Foundation study published Tuesday which found that of the 8 million workers represented by unions, only 478,189 workers "voted to unionize (1973-2015) and still work for the same employer." The study only included private-sector workers regulated under the National Labor Relations Act, so it does not cover many types of unions, such as teachers unions.

Nevertheless, the number is staggering — only 6 percent of these workers have actually voted for their unions. These were recertification votes to select the actual union structure, as opposed to votes for specific union leaders. Despite this crucial distinction, it is still egregious to consider that 94 percent of union workers have not voted to be represented by a union in the first place.

Chougule referenced some teachers unions in a similar situation. The unions "were voted in in the 1950s and 1960s," but now "there is not a single member or teacher who voted for that union and who still works in that school district." When liberals push union rights, remember they are talking about a chronically out-of-date structure.

In this context, AFP's Wisconsin State Director Eric Bott declared that union recertification (workers voting on whether or not to be supported by their particular union, not just for union representatives) is "a quite progressive idea."

Chougule recalled a less-known effect of Governor Scott Walker's reforms: "It asked every single public employee union in the State of Wisconsin to stand for re-election every year, so they were accountable to the people they are representing today."

Bott acknowledged that some conservatives might fear this requirement could end up being costly. Federal elections every two years have become famously expensive, so what would keep union elections from racking up the bills? But this reform has already come into effect, and the costs are rather small, about $2.50 per person. "Democracy and freedom for less than the price of a cup of coffee in Wisconsin," Bott quipped.

The more prominent union issue, Right to Work, focuses on the ability of workers to refuse to join a union and thereby avoid paying dues. The three panelists each hailed from a state which legalized Right to Work in recent years: Wisconsin (Eric Bott), Michigan (F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy), and West Virginia (AFP State Director Jason Huffman).

Huffman explained the basic concept of Right to Work in these terms: "People's paychecks and the money they need to feed themselves should not be up for grabs by unions." This is a major issue because unions spend heavily on politics, and they do not represent the political leanings of their members.

"In 2012, unions spent about $700 million on politics," Chougule noted. "90 percent of that spending went to support Democrats or liberal causes. 40 percent of union members voted for Mitt Romney for president. That's not what representation looks like."

Right to Work laws have passed in 26 states, but liberals have found a way to challenge them in the courts. Using the logic of accusing non-dues-paying workers of being "free riders," activists argue that unions have a constitutional right to the dues of workers they represent.

Vernuccio called "free riders" "a nasty, nasty term." It suggests that workers gain certain benefits by being represented by unions and should therefore pay the union accordingly. But if a worker wishes to opt out of a union, he should neither pay dues nor be represented by the union. Vernuccio actually suggested that so-called free riders are actually "forced riders" because "they're still stuck accepting that representation" from the union.

Next Page: Why do liberals think Right to Work is unconstitutional?