The Buckeye Institute calls for labor policy changes to give public sector employees voting rights on union representation

Sep 05, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio—An Ohio group is calling for policymakers to require that government unions hold regular elections for their members. In a report released today, The Buckeye Institute says worker voting rights would improve unions' responsiveness to employee needs.

The Buckeye report, "One Person, One Vote, One Time? Re-election Votes Hold Unions Accountable to Their Members," details how policymakers can give public employees a greater voice when it comes to their unions' performance and whether they want a particular union, if any at all, to represent them.

In Ohio, unions need to win only one election to represent members indefinitely, even incoming employees.

“Just as voters hold their public officials accountable so, too, should workers be able to call for better representation,” Rea Hederman Jr., executive vice president of The Buckeye Institute, said. “Ohio should follow the lead of other states by requiring their government unions to regularly stand for re-election, which will only improve their responsiveness to member needs.”

In 2011, Tennessee required public education unions to hold elections once every three years so that teachers could measure their performance. The state also required that unions receive support from a majority of employees, not just voters. The Buckeye Institute is endorsing that approach for Ohio.

“Ohio makes it very difficult for workers to have a voice in their unions,” Robert Alt, Buckeye’s president and CEO, said. “Under current law, the ability for union workers to hold an election is far more cumbersome than how we conduct our elections for public officials. And elections keep people accountable.”

To call for a union election, Ohio public employees must collect signatures from 50 percent of their bargaining unit. By comparison, candidates for governor and state senator in Ohio must submit 1,000 signatures—fewer than 1 percent of registered voters—to get on Ohio’s statewide ballot.

Other findings from The Buckeye Institute report include:

  • Polling data show 82 percent of union members support holding elections for members to maintain or replace their union.
  • Ohio law has allowed the Columbus Education Association to represent virtually all Columbus Public School teachers for more than 30 years without ever asking for or receiving their consent to do so.
  • The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 4 discourages any of its 40,000 Ohio government employees from trying to hold a union election, issuing fines up to a year’s worth of dues or even expulsion.

The new Buckeye Institute report, “One Person, One Vote, One Time? Re-election Votes Hold Unions Accountable to Their Members,” is available at BuckeyeInstitute.org.

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Founded in 1989, The Buckeye Institute is an independent research and educational institution—a think tank—whose mission is to advance free-market public policy in the states.