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Despite their somewhat pitiful record, I have remained a loyal fan of the Chicago Cubs. Many of my weekends are spent going to games sporting either my Rizzo or Castro jersey. A mile from Wrigley Field, my apartment houses Cubs memorabilia I have collected over the years. Sometimes disappointed by their poor play, I have never strayed. But what if I wanted to?
What if I decided I wanted to join the Cardinals fandom, but was only given a two-week time frame to leave the Cubs? What if, despite my lack of interest in the Cubs, I was forced to remain a fan and required to continue to pay for games and memorabilia, having missed my opt-out period? I am aware this would be absurd, but it exists in a different fashion.
It exists for union members.
Millions of workers currently reside in states or districts where they are required to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. Others are indebted to random “drop” periods secretly lengthening their union membership, or—worst of all—misled to believe joining a union is the only option available.
During the week of August 10–16, The Heartland Institute, along with nearly 80 other groups across 45 states, have partnered together to host National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW) in order to teach current union members about their freedom to leave their union entirely — and (depending on the state) abstain from paying all or a portion of their union dues.
Union members usually can leave their union only during a narrow, two-week window at the end of a three- or four-year contract. Labor unions often hide these opt-out provisions deep inside wordy contracts. With only a very thin and under-advertised window for leaving a union, workers are stuck paying for representation they may consider unwarranted and political contributions that oppose their interests and viewpoints. Other workers remain in unions believing that will advance their careers, unaware that alternative professional organizations provide many of the same services, often with better benefits, at a fraction of the cost of union membership.
According to a Google Consumer Survey poll, 28 percent of union members would like to leave their union if they could do so without consequences. That’s about 4 million of the nation’s 14.5 million union members that either don’t know how to leave or are told they are not permitted to do so.
Employees in right-to-work states have the independence to leave their union with no loss of employment, earnings, benefits, or ranking. Although workers have much less choice in forced-unionization states, in many cases these employees can elect to become agency-fee payers or classify as a religious objector.
The majority of the public supports this right-to-work belief. According to another Google Consumer Survey poll released by NEFW, 83 percent of Americans think that employees should “have the right to decide, without force or penalty, whether to join or leave a labor union.” These polls show that union members want to opt out of their union and that the public agrees they should be allowed to.
Every year, countless employees across the country pay union dues without knowing about their right to opt out partially or completely. National Employee Freedom Week lets them know it’s possible and provides them with the understanding of how it’s done.
Being a union member, or even a Cubs fan, shouldn’t be a permanent commitment.