News Release: Majority of Union Employees Want Worker Voting Rights

Regular elections are foundational to representative democracy. Yet thousands of Pennsylvanians who work in the public sector are bound by a single vote held more than four decades ago to elect a union that has never again had to earn workers’ approval. Indeed, less than 1 percent of Pennsylvania schoolteachers voted for their union.


Government union members deserve the right to vote on what union—if any—represents them.

But more than 70 percent of union employees want the right to vote regularly on which union represents them, according to a new nationwide survey conducted for National Employee Freedom Week (Aug. 20 – 26). That right is denied in Pennsylvania because once a government union is officially recognized—or “certified”—to represent all employees, it is never required to stand for re-election.

“Government union members deserve the right to vote on what union—if any—represents them,” commented Bob Dick, senior policy analyst for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Not only would this give union employees greater choice in their workplace representation, but it would also motivate union leadership to be more responsive to members’ priorities.”

A 2016 Commonwealth Foundation study found that in the state’s 20 largest school districts, just 17 of 24,158 current teachers (less than 1 percent) were employed during the last union certification election. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was elected 52 years ago, and the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers was certified in 1973. Neither union has stood for re-election since.

Click here for an interactive version of the map below.

The National Employee Freedom Week survey, conducted by Carnegie Mellon University’s Lloyd Corder, also compared the opinions of union employees in Right-to-Work and forced union states on a variety of other workplace factors, finding only nominal differences between the two groups. This contradicts union claims that Right-to-Work, now law in 28 states, negatively impacts workers.

“Unions should not be given an exemption from democracy,” continued Dick. “It’s time lawmakers give teachers and other public employees a voice in what organization negotiates their salary and working conditions.”

Bob Dick and other Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Gina Diorio at 862-703-6670 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

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The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.