More than one in four union members favor right-to-work laws that would allow them to quit their labor group, a new survey found.
The survey was conducted by free-market groups promoting a "National Employee Freedom Week" to educate workers on the options they have regarding unions.
About 28.7 percent of union members answered yes to the question, "If it were possible to opt of membership in a labor union without losing your job or any other penalty, would you do it?" The scenario outlined by the question is essentially what a right-to-work law does.
"National Employee Freedom Week is a crucial public service to counteract this assault on worker freedom," said Trey Kovacs, labor policy expert for the free market Competitive Enterprise Institute, one of the groups promoting the week. "All hard-working men and women should know about their freedom to opt out of union membership, especially since many workers do not approve of their union's political spending."
The survey of 300 union members was conducted by Google Consumer Survey for members of the National Employee Freedom Week coalition, which includes conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, the National Taxpayers Union and Freedomworks, among others.
Lee Schalk, spokesman for the coalition, said it is pushing for legislation to allow workers to negotiate individually with their employers if they have opted out of union membership. Most private-sector labor unions are the sole employee representative for any workplace matter, meaning that it negotiates for workers whether they belong to the union or not. Unions argue this requirement justifies forcing non-member employees to pay "fair share" fees to the union, a common feature of most labor-management contracts.
Right-to-work laws prohibit such fees. Unions have long said that the laws create a unfair burden on them, and they are attempting to use that argument in legal challenges to the laws in states such as West Virginia. Schalk argues that workers should instead be allowed to represent themselves in negotiations or grievances.
"Such an arrangement would overcome one of the main union arguments against right-to-work.' Namely, that it creates 'free riders' — those who get the benefit of union representation without having to bear any costs," he said.
The survey found that 67 percent of workers thought nonunion members should represent themselves in issues with management. "These survey results show that many workers believe they're better stewards of their hard-earned wages," said Vinnie Vernuccio, another National Employee Freedom Week national spokesman and director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.