Public employees deserve to know their rights

Public employees deserve to know their rights

As recently elected chairman of the R.I. Center for Freedom & Prosperity, and in celebration of National Employee Freedom Week (Aug 19-25), I have pledged to help lead the Center on a major worker freedom initiative.

For years, I have admired the work of Mike Stenhouse and his team at the Center, who have relentlessly championed the rights of Rhode Islanders to live and work in a free society. Whether the issue is educational liberty, free-market economics, religious freedom, or other constitutional rights, the Center has been a consistent voice to advance liberty over tyranny and against the entrenched status quo. The Center has often fought for underprivileged communities by promoting school choice for parents whose children are trapped in failed school systems, advocating for significantly lowered sales taxes that will keep more money in families’ pockets, and working for an improved statewide business climate that will create better paying jobs for more Rhode Islanders.

As chairman, and with the approval of our Board, I will support the Center’s multi-year campaign to similarly fight for public servants and their right to be made aware of their newly restored First Amendment “Janus” freedoms. The landmark Janus v. AFSCME U.S. Supreme Court decision in June frees public employees from forced payment of fees to their government-designated union as a condition of employment or to maintain their compensation, seniority, and other benefits. Essentially, public employees across America were granted Right-to-Work freedoms.

However, Rhode Island politicians have already signaled their lack respect for public employees by seeking to deny them – teachers, police, fire, etc. – being informed of their constitutional right to choose. It already appears that unions and their government employers are co-conspiring to deliberately mislead or withhold such information from employees. Conversely, our Center trusts that public servants are capable to make informed decisions about their union affiliation that are best for themselves and their families. This is why we are moving forward with a public awareness campaign to inform government employees of their new rights as a result of the Janus ruling.

There are many myths about campaigns that promote workplace freedom. History from other states proves that such campaigns are not the union-busting programs they are made out to be, as government unions continue to thrive, retaining the vast majority of their members. Detailed surveys show that public employees in Right-to-Work states are just as satisfied with their working conditions and benefits as their counterparts in forced-union-fee states. Most union and non-union employees agree that they should regularly vote on whether or not to keep representation from their current union, while many also support the concept of representing themselves with their employers. And, most employees are not aware that there are non-union organizations that can provide legal services and other protections, such as liability insurance, at far lower costs.

At the root of the Janus case is the inherently political nature of government unions, which negotiate for taxpayer funded benefits. Prior to Janus, these activities were subsidized with dollars forcibly taken in dues or fees from public employee paychecks. Now that workers have been restored their rights to choose whether or not to pay, unions must become more transparent and diverse in their election and legislative advocacy, if they are to keep their members. Employees should know how their dues money is spent; this, too, will be part of our campaign.

To all public employees: It is your pay and, now, it is your say. But sadly, your union officials and your state or local government employer do not want you to know what your new Janus rights are.

This is why our Center is partnering with the national education and outreach campaign, My Pay My Say, to launch the MyPayMySayRI.com campaign. As with all Rhode Islanders and Americans, our Center defends your constitutional freedoms and your right not only to know … but to freely exercise your rights.

Dr. Stephen Skoly

Cranston

Dr. Skoly is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Cranston and an independent film producer.