Celebrating Worker Freedom on Labor Day

On this Labor Day, we salute California’s hard-working men and women with a much-deserved three-day weekend while enjoying the unofficial end of the summer season.

This Labor Day, we celebrate the fact that California’s public employees who don’t want to pay for their union’s political agenda, who don’t believe they are receiving much value from their membership, or simply wish to spend the hundreds of dollars they pay in union dues elsewhere can now leave the union.

Echoing what Ronald Reagan said during the Cold War when he said that “freedom is not free,” Right by the Bay has documented how proponents of worker freedom are waging a continual battle in the Legislature and the courts to uphold the rights of disaffected public employees.

  • We recently talked with Tim Snowball of the Pacific Legal Foundation about his organization’s efforts in court to fight the constantly evolving roadblocks public employee unions are putting in place to make it as difficult as possible for workers to quit the union.
  • PRI’s Kerry Jackson wrote about legislative efforts to make quitting the union as difficult as possible for disaffected public employees. He wrote last summer that, “long before the Janus ruling was announced, California lawmakers, many of whom have been widely criticized as being wholly owned by the public employee unions, were busy introducing bills that are intended to allow unions make an end run around the court.
  • And PRI’s Lance Izumi and Rebecca Friedrichs, who was the plaintiff in her own worker freedom case before the Supreme Court that tragically ended in a 4-4 tie after the death of Justice Scalia, recently wrote that unions “make opting out complex and deceive teachers into believing they’ll lose their pay, pension, legal protections and contracts if they leave unions. These are lies, but many teachers believe them.”

So, what can disaffected teachers and public employees do to preserve their rights?

One way to do this is to get educated about the worker freedoms guaranteed by the Janus decision.

Surprisingly, despite all the headlines about the Janus decision and its aftermath, a lot of teachers simply weren’t aware that they could leave their union.

Next week on PRI’s Next Round podcast (check back on September 10 to hear the episode), we talk with Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators, about a recent poll released by their Teacher Freedom project surveying teacher attitudes on their union one year after the Janus decision.

Of those surveyed, 52 percent did not know that they could leave their union without paying a fee following the Janus ruling.

Fortunately, there are several online resources available for public employee union members to learn about their rights after Janus.

PRI has put together a “Worker Freedom” page – a one-stop resource where public employees can learn about their rights, how to opt out of the union, and hear what real life workers have to say about opting out.  There’s also information about resources available to replace lost union benefits like liability insurance and a calculator to show how much can be saved by opting out and instead investing in a retirement account.

This Labor Day let’s celebrate the contributions of the millions of hard-working Californians that fuel our economy.  At the same time, let’s cherish the hard-fought worker freedoms won for our state’s public employees, and their right to quit their union if they choose and keep more of their hard-earned money in their own pockets. 

Tim Anaya is the Pacific Research Institute’s communications director.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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