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Resigning Union Membership

Unions: Just telling government workers their rights is a terrible idea

union testimony
Not as tame as it looks: AFFT director Keith Williams (foreground) testifies before the PA legislature.

If a product or service isn’t working for you, you should have another option. Nobody can blame you when you switch to cheaper car insurance, faster internet, or more comfortable shoes.

The same goes for your representation in the workplace.

Keith Williams, Pennsylvania Director of Outreach at Americans for Fair Treatment, made this obvious point in his recent testimony before the state legislature’s House Labor and Industry Committee. Keith appeared before the committee to share his story of union coercion when he was a high school English teacher in Adams County.

Like so many teachers and other government union employees, Keith felt like he was pushed into paying for a union without being presented with a clear choice (this was when his school district forced non-member teachers into paying fair share fees to the union—the very practice the U.S. Supreme Court later struck down in Janus v. AFSCME). That’s why Keith spoke before the committee in support of State Rep. Kate Klunk’s (R-York County) Janus notification bill, HB 2571. The bill passed committee by a vote of 16-11 on Sept. 24. 

Teachers and all government workers need to be informed of their right to choose union membership or to opt out. Besides, as Rep. Klunk herself pointed out at the hearing, where she testified alongside Keith, “My bill simply ensures the law of the land is enforced.”

After the Janus ruling, shouldn’t that be fairly non-controversial?

But when Keith argued that in his experience, unions can’t be counted on to hold themselves accountable to workers, committee member Leanne Krueger-Braneky (D-Delaware County) went on the attack.

“Do you encourage union members to resign?” she repeated the question numerous times.

Keith simply explained the purpose of AFFT’s My Choice, My Voice website. “We are giving them the tools they need to exercise their rights.”

Krueger-Braneky immediately diverted into a new line of questioning: “Are you affiliated with the Koch Brothers?”

AFFT is not, and answering “no” to that question gets old after a while. But our takeaway was clear: whenever we try to offer a choice to government workers, unions become terrified. They resort to smear tactics and “guilt by association.”

But they leave out any compelling reason why workers shouldn’t have a choice.

That’s because the point is obvious: government workers should have the same choice and the same voice as everybody else.

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