UNIONS TARGET PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYEES FOR GROWTH
With failed efforts to pass card check and other union-friendly legislation in Congress – at least thusfar – unions have begun to move forward on other initiatives for growing union membership. One of those has been to try and increase union presence in the public sector, and West Virginia has not been immune to those efforts.
By way of just one example, the Service Employees International Union (“SEIU”) recently made a push to have a county commission in West Virginia authorize its employees to join a union and engage in collective bargaining. In doing so, the SEIU provided the commission with a draft resolution that contained the following features:
- It gave county employees the right to join unions and bargain collectively;
- It required the commission to remain neutral in any union campaign;
- It bound the commission to recognize a bargaining representative based on signed authorization cards, a measure known as “card check” recognition;
- It provided that the commission would have a duty to bargain in good faith with the union; and
- It required that the commission assume a duty to apply any negotiated terms.
Fortunately, the proposed resolution would also have recognized that employees in “emergency service” positions have no right to strike – though they would have remained free to picket, handbill, and otherwise communicate their positions on labor issues to the general public. This measure was added to the commission’s agenda, but has not yet come to a vote.
While attempts at unionizing the public sector are merely a means of generating dues revenue for unions – revenue which will be plowed into elections in the coming years – the real impact of any unionization of public employees is likely to come in the form of a greater cost for public wages and benefits, less flexibility in the public sector labor force, and the need to raise taxes to support the increase in costs. It goes without saying that these are not good consequences. For this reason, all public entities in West Virginia and beyond need to be aware that unions are targeting them for growth in union rolls, and act preemptively to best position themselves to ward off those efforts.