Survey indicates nearly 30 percent of W.Va. members would leave union if they could

By Dawn Geske | Aug 29, 2016

CHARLESTON – A new survey indicates that almost 80 percent of union members in West Virginia would rather represent themselves with employers if they were to opt out of the union.

A survey from the Nevada Policy Research Institute under the National Employee Freedom Week (NEFW) campaign asked union members throughout the United States if they could opt out of their union without any penalty would they do it. Just under 30 percent – 28.7 percent – of respondents said they would.

The survey also asked if workers would rather represent themselves with employers if they were to opt out of union membership. Nationally, that number was about 70 percent saying they would. In West Virginia, it was 77.2 percent.

With West Virginia as the latest Right To Work state, one official with an advocacy group said the results of the survey are telling.

“In West Virginia that number is a staggering 77.2 percent of union member agree that workers that opt out of the union and stop paying agree that they should represent themselves,” said F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, part of the coalition of NEFW and spokesperson for the NEFW.

The survey polled 300 union members nationwide. The results indicate that more than 4 million of the 14.8 million union members want out of the union and would opt out if they could stop paying dues and not lose their job. Unions have labeled members that opt out as free riders.

“They’re actually forced riders because they’re forced to accept the union contract whether they like it or not,” Vernuccio told The West Virginia Record. “You should free the forced riders. Instead of making workers pay for an unwanted service, workers should end that unwanted relationship and represent themselves.

"The union is free to say goodbye, and the worker is free to say no thanks.”

As part of the NEFW campaign, the organization is testing support of its new policy, Worker’s Choice.

“Unions are trying to appeal Right to Work, saying it's unconstitutional because they have to represent people that aren’t paying them,” Vernuccio said. “Our stance is under a new concept called Worker’s Choice. Instead of appealing Right to Work, we should change the law so that workers that opt out of the union should represent themselves.”

Keeping some union members from opting out of the union is fear of retaliation, which Vernuccio said NEFW has seen.

“We have seen pressure for employees that do opt out of the union, whether it's public shame lists or the union trying to ruin their credit," he said. "There are several examples of unions that come down very hard on employees that are exercising their right.”

To avoid retaliation from opting out, Vernuccio recommends that union involvement or noninvolvement become a private affair.

“The opt in or out of a union should be something that’s private,” Vernuccio said. “If someone was to be public about their union membership or lack thereof, that’s their right. Unions shouldn’t be publicly shaming employees that exercise their rights.”

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