Bill Would Give Workers a Vote
Imagine you could vote for the president only one time, and then you were stuck with the results until he or she were impeached. This wouldn’t be very democratic would it? For many of our government employees, including teachers and firefighters, this is the sort of democracy used to determine whether workers are unionized.
I previously wrote about the government union transparency gap and a bill addressing it, but if you are a government worker subject to union representation, not knowing where your dues go is only part of the problem. In many cases, you also have very little say in who represents you, and you have no recourse to ensure that your voice is heard. That’s why we need reform that would give all unionized public employees the ability to vote in regular union elections.
Consider the example of personal care attendants enrolled in the state’s consumer-directed health care program. Attendants get paid out of a state-managed program to take care of home-bound Missourians. In 2009, the attendants had an election to determine whether they would all be represented by the Missouri Home Care Union, a joint local union affiliated with both AFSCME and SEIU.
Out of 13,151 eligible voters, only 2,085 voted for the union. According to the state board running these elections, 294 ballots were challenged and 1,405 voters voted against the election. The challenged ballots plus the number of votes against the union were not enough to affect the outcome of the election. So in a low-turnout election with hundreds of challenged ballots, less than 16 percent of personal care attendants were able to force union representation on every other person enrolled in this program.
You might think, “Well, that’s just democracy. If you don’t vote, you deserve the representation you’re given.” The problem is that after a one-time election there will not be another election unless workers organize and go through a notoriously difficult decertification process. Depending on how a union contract is written, the union may even sue workers for trying to decertify the union or supporting another union. There’s nothing democratic about voting for a representative once and then being stuck with the results indefinitely.
If public employees are going to be subject to union representation against their will, then they at least should get a regular vote so that they can hold their union accountable. The Missouri Legislature has a bill, SB 549, that would require these regular elections. Regular union elections could help ensure that public employees, like teachers, police, and firefighters, are only subject to unions that work for them.