Hitting the Unions’ Raw Nerve

Usually a 7-page bill dropped unceremoniously by 2 freshman minority-party legislators in one house is cause for nothing more than

Usually a 7-page bill dropped unceremoniously by 2 freshman minority-party legislators in one house is cause for nothing more than a yawn.

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Interestingly, though, Assembly bill 4223 sponsored by Assemblywoman Amy Handlin and Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon instantly generated a written press statement from the Assembly Speaker herself, as well as a public statement by the President of the State AFL-CIO.


My my, what kind of bill that is going nowhere in this Legislature could generate this kind of fear and loathing at the highest levels, instantly upon introduction?


It is simply a proposal that would end forced unionization in NJ’s workplaces.  The bill would add NJ to the 22 so-called “Right to Work” states, by prohibiting employers and unions from requiring employees to become union members and pay dues, as a condition of employment.


Sounds fairly innocuous, doesn’t it, to protect a worker’s right to join and pay dues to, or refuse to join, an organization in which he or she believes or doesn’t believe?  Sounds scarily like the First Amendment.


There is overwhelming evidence that “right to work” states have a better economy than “forced unionization” states like NJ, which allow compulsory union membership and dues-paying, even for public sector employees.


A recent Ohio University study showed that total employment growth from 1977-2008 was 100% in RTW states, but only 56.5% in non-RTW states.  The national average was 71%.


Growth in per capita income was also higher in RTW states during this period, 62% in RTW states, 52% in non-RTW states, and the national average of 54%.


Another study showed that, from 2000-2009, 5 million people moved from non-RTW states to RTW states, and the population in the 25-34 age cohort grew 16% in those states, underlying the growth in those most likely to be productive, taxpaying employees.


Obviously there are factors other than right to work laws which contributed to better growth in these states, like lower taxes and more favorable regulatory climates.  But it is interesting, and indisputable, that in every measure these states have done better.


What makes A-4223 even more intriguing, and I suspect has touched the rawest nerve among the public employee union movement, is a provision that would prohibit public employers from being the dues collectors for a private organization, the unions.


In NJ today, the public employee unions don’t have to earn the dues of its members, they are automatically deducted from tax-paid paychecks and handed over to the union.


This crazy system immunizes the union leadership from accountability to its members, because the members can’t “vote with their wallet.”


Instead of spending $14 million in media attacking the Governor, and millions more in lobbying fees, the NJEA might have to actually spend dues money hiring collectors to chase union members for their dues, like every other private organization and business has to do to collect late payments, overdue fees, etc.


It is one more exemption from “real world” business practices that has made the public employee unions so arrogant, and so resistant to common-sense reform.


Let’s hope that A-4223 touches more than the raw nerve of unions and their legislative enablers, let’s hope it touches off a real debate about common-sense labor reform, and support for pro-growth policies that will return NJ to economic dominance in our region, instead of economic backwardness.


Hitting the Unions’ Raw Nerve