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Free Rider/Forced Rider

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On June 30, the Supreme Court decided to hear Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association et al during its 2015-2016 session. If the case is successful, public employees will have a choice whether or not to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. The responses to the Court’s decision from the teachers unions and their friends have ranged from silly to contradictory to blatantly dishonest.


Perhaps their most fraudulent allegations about Friedrichs concern the “free rider” issue. There are 25 states where workers now have a choice as payment of union dues, but in the other 25 they must pay up if they want a job. The unions claim that since they are forced to represent all workers that those who don’t pay their “fair share” are “freeloaders” or “free riders.” The unions would have a point if someone was sticking a gun to their collective heads and said, “Like it or not, you must represent allworkers.” But that simply is not the case.

As Heritage Foundation senior policy analyst James Sherk explains, “The National Labor Relations Act allows unions that demonstrate majority support to negotiate as exclusive representatives. If they do so they must negotiate fairly on behalf of all employees, including those who do not pay dues. However unions may disavow (or not obtain) exclusive representative status and negotiate only for their members. Nothing in the National Labor Relations Act forces exclusive representation on unwilling unions.”

Teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci adds, “The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves. Making people pay for services they neither asked for nor want is a ‘privilege’ we reserve for government, not for private organizations. Unions are freeloading on those additional dues.”


If there are still any skeptics, George Meany, the first president of the AFL-CIO, whose rein began in 1955 and stretched for 24 years, told Congress, “When a union has exclusive recognition with a federal activity or agency, that union is required to represent all workers in that unit, whether or not those workers are members of the union. We do not contest this requirement. We support it for federal service, just as we support it in private industry labor-management relations.”

While the NLRA applies only to private employee unions, the same types of rules invariably govern public employee unions. Passed in 1976, California’s Rodda Act allows for exclusive representation for teachers and it’s up to each school district and its local union whether or not they want to go that route. However, it is clearly in the best interest of a union to be the only representative for teachers because it then gets to collect dues from every educator in the district. It’s also easier on school boards as they only have to deal with one bargaining entity. So it is really a corrupt bargain; there is no law foisting exclusivity on any teachers union in the state.

So exclusive representation is good for the unions and simplifies life for the school boards, but very bad for teachers who want nothing to do with organized labor. That’s why this week 99 organizations in 42 states are celebrating National Employee Freedom Week, which was created to inform union members about their right to opt out of union-membership.


Free riding is a misnomer. If anything, these teachers are forced riders.

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