Reforming Government Unions Would Provide Greater Worker Choice
by Gregg Keller
Government unions negotiate with taxpayer dollars, yet they are not held accountable to their own members or to Missouri taxpayers. With the rate of government union membership five times that of union membership in the private sector, now is the time to enact government union reform on behalf of Missouri workers.
The reforms we believe are needed in Missouri would ensure government unions act in the best interest of their members and are held accountable to taxpayers. Senator Bob Onder and Representative John Wiemann have been leading the effort to implement common sense reforms in the Missouri legislature.
First, Missouri workers should have a voice in deciding who best represents their interests. Most current government union members have never voted to choose their representation and certify their union. Once a union is certified as the exclusive representative, there are limited options for changing representation.
Meaningful government union reform would require regular recertification elections, giving workers the option to renew current representation, choose new representation or vote to have no exclusive representation.
Wisconsin enacted legislation in 2011 to require annual recertification elections. Government unions in Wisconsin must receive the support of 51 percent of all eligible voters. In 2013, the first year the elections were held, 80 percent of unions were able to win recertification. In 2014, 92 percent recertified. Government unions in Missouri should not be concerned about decertification as long as they satisfactorily represent their members. Unions that do a poor job representing their members should be held accountable.
Second, Missouri taxpayers should have the same right to access government union contract negotiations as they have to monitor legislative hearings. Legal loopholes exempt government union negotiations from the state open records and open meetings laws. Since government unions negotiate with tax dollars, we support reforms to classify meetings and records concerning government union labor agreements as public meetings and records subject to Missouri’s Sunshine Law.
Third, Missouri workers should know how their government union spends their dues. Private sector unions are required to file financial disclosures with the Department of Labor for union members and the public to review. Government unions should be held to at least the same transparency standards. Government union reform should require annual reporting of financial assets and liabilities; itemized expenditures; union officer and members’ salaries and benefits; lobbying expenditures; and political contributions.
Fourth, our state government should not be bound indefinitely to unsustainable agreements with unions. Evergreen clauses can bind parties to agreements many years beyond the original term, thereby allowing unions to keep favorable terms in effect even when the government cannot afford it. Government union reform should prohibit any government union labor agreement from exceeding two years to prevent one party from keeping favorable terms in place beyond the original agreement’s end date.
Government union reform is needed in Missouri and we hope the next General Assembly takes action to make reform a reality. The reform efforts we have laid out will empower workers over union bosses and will shine much needed light on the activities of government unions.