Arkansas ‘Headed in the Right Direction’

Monopolistic Unions Banned in Schools, State Agencies and Courts

Arkansas’s Right to Work law, which was first adopted in 1944 and upheld by a nearly 2:1 majority of voters when Big Labor tried to kill it in an amply funded 1976 referendum scheme, does a great deal to curtail union-boss abuses in the Razorback State.

However, the effectiveness of the law has been diminished by the fact that, until very recently, Arkansas public servants of all kinds could be made subject to union monopoly bargaining on matters concerning their pay, benefits, and work rules in order to work for the taxpayer.

As the late Thomas E. Harris, then a top AFL-CIO lawyer, acknowledged back in 1962, the very fact that a union is legally empowered to “negotiate the contract which regulates the incidents of [a worker’s] industrial life puts him under powerful compulsion to join the union.” (Emphasis added.) 

‘It Is a Fundamental American Right to Choose Your Own Representation’

Fortunately, this year, Arkansas lawmakers decided to heed the wishes of their overwhelmingly pro-Right to Work constituents and approved legislation that prohibits Big Labor from seizing monopoly-bargaining control of public servants who work at schools, colleges, many state agencies and courts.

After being adopted by the Arkansas state Senate and House of Representatives, S.B.341, the legislation rolling back Big Labor’s special privileges, was sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s (R) desk in April.

In a letter sent to the governor at that time, National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix, speaking on behalf of  the Committee’s nearly 37,000 members in the state, strongly encouraged him to sign it, observing:

“No individual should be forced to accept Big Labor monopoly bargaining in order to serve the people of Arkansas.

“It is a fundamental American right to choose your own representation — even a convicted criminal retains this right. But government union bosses have taken this right away from Arkansas workers.” 

‘Groups With a Right to a Voice’ May Be ‘Left Out of Vital Political Decisions’

In addition to depriving independent-minded public servants of any chance to deal directly with their employer regarding key workplace concerns, and prodding them to join a union even if they would otherwise prefer not to, monopoly bargaining undermines representative government.

In the words of the unanimous 1969 U.S. District Court for North Carolina ruling in Atkins v. City of Charlotte: 

“[T]o the extent that public employees gain power through recognition and [monopolistic] collective bargaining, other interest groups with a right to a voice in the running of the government may be left out of vital political decisions.” 

One important example of what the Atkins court was concerned about is how school officials should make difficult personnel decisions when, due to a recession, declining enrollment, or some other reason, layoffs must occur.

In such situations, parents and taxpayers in general overwhelmingly agree that the jobs of outstanding teachers and teachers who specialize in especially demanding subject areas like physics, chemistry, and advanced math should be protected, even if such teachers have relatively little seniority.

In sharp contrast, National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT/AFL-CIO) union bosses always insist that, when layoffs occur, they must be made exclusively on the basis of seniority, regardless of how effective the laid off low-seniority teachers are, or how hard they will be to replace.  

And when a monopoly-bargaining regime is entrenched in K-12 schools, it is virtually inevitable that the wishes of the teacher union hierarchy will prevail over the public interest.

Public-Safety Officers, Certain Transit Employees Left Out of Reform

While S.B.341, which was signed by Gov. Hutchinson on April 8, goes a long way towards eliminating union monopoly bargaining and its attendant ills in Arkansas’s public sector, Big Labor will still be able to get and maintain strangleholds over thousands and thousands of civil servants.

National Right to Work Committee Vice President John Kalb explained:

“Police officers, certain transit employees, and municipal and county employees unfortunately got left out of the reform in S.B.341. 

“The fact is, all government union monopolies are harmful.

“While a 2018 scientific survey of educators commissioned by National Public Radio found that nearly two-thirds of unionized teachers nationwide agree that unions ‘make it hard to fire bad teachers,’ police union bosses also routinely oppose employee accountability measures.

“In Minneapolis, for example, Gopher State union kingpins have exploited their monopoly power to guarantee police accused of inappropriate use of force a 48-hour waiting period before anyone can interview them about the alleged incident.

“Right to Work members and leaders fully support the right of police officers, teachers, and other public servants to band together to protect their legitimate interests.

“But public-safety and transportation union bosses are no more deserving of monopoly-bargaining privileges than teacher union bosses are.

“With S.B.341, Arkansas is headed in the right direction.

“But much remains to be done. Right to Work leaders and our citizen activists will continue pressing for the protection, in the near future, of all Razorback State public employees from union monopoly bargaining.” 

This article was originally published in the National Right to Work Committee’s monthly newsletter. You can go here to access previous newsletter posts.