by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
Unionization efforts are becoming more prevalent in North Carolina. Last month, nurses at Mission Hospital in Asheville voted to unionize after a pro-union campaign push from the National Nurses Organizing Committee, the nation’s largest registered nurses’ union. Now pressure is intensifying to end public-sector collective bargaining protections in the state. JLF’s Dr. Terry Stoops writes in his most recent research brief:
The N.C. General Assembly approved a ban on collective bargaining by public-sector employees more than six decades ago… Today, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia are the only three states to have statutory prohibitions on collective bargaining of all public-sector employees. By this time next year, the number of states will fall to two. Lawmakers in Virginia approved legislation earlier this year that would allow certain local government workers, including teachers, nurses, and firefighters, to bargain with their employers collectively…
While South Carolina appears to be safe from efforts to expand public-sector unionization in the Southeast, North Carolina is not. In 2018 and 2019, the N.C. Association of Educators organized “Red for Ed” walkouts that inspired thousands of public-school employees and advocates to travel to Raleigh on a school day in May. In 2020, the group’s members elected leaders who were “inspired by the powerful organizing and social justice focus of the Chicago Teachers’ Union” and have embraced the strategies and tactics employed by their teacher union comrades in Chicago and other large cities.
Public sector unionization could bring with it large costs. Dr. Stoops writes:
Public-sector unions increase government expenditures in two ways. The first and most obvious way is to use the collective bargaining process to negotiate higher salaries, more generous benefits, and expanded employment opportunities for union members and those covered by union contracts…
The second way is to use the political process to support prounion candidates for key local and state offices. Sympathetic elected officials can then use their regulatory and legal authority to protect union interests while using the power of taxation to raise revenues necessary to accommodate compensation and employment demands.
Altogether, a recent report from the John Locke Foundation estimates public-sector unionization could cost North Carolinians between $889 million and $1.32 billion.