Right-to-work laws face serious challenges this year in both the courts and at the ballot box. Labor has recently launched lawsuits challenging the laws in Idaho, West Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as pushed a ballot initiative in South Dakota that amounts to a back-door repeal of right-to-work.

In all of these cases, unions are relying on the so-called “free-rider problem” to justify forcing everyone in a unionized shop to pay up if they want to keep their jobs. They argue that since they, by law, must represent all workers through collective bargaining, it’s right and fair that they should be paid for their efforts. They have half a point here, but their choice-destroying remedy is the wrong way to go for America.

The half a point is that unions shouldn’t have to represent folks who don’t want to be members of or pay dues to a union. Their argument misses the mark, however, in labeling these people “free riders.” They are, rather, “forced riders” in a rigged system that holds them hostage.

Remember, the law on representation is what it is in part because of the efforts of unions themselves. Unions want the current bargaining monopoly because they think it gives them a better negotiating position with private employers and governments.

Leaders of organized labor don’t want workers to be able to represent themselves. They believe all workers should be compelled, by law, to pay dues and leave the negotiating to them. The union rank-and-file may disagree with this. A recent national poll found that almost 70 percent of union members thought those people who don’t wish to pay dues to a union in fact ought to represent themselves.

Fortunately, a few elected officials are listening to the people. This month, Rep. Gary Glenn, R-Midland, introduced a “worker’s choice” bill in the Michigan Legislature. If passed, House Bill 5829 would finally give each worker in the state’s public sector unions a genuine choice: Pay dues to the union and allow it to bargain for you, or go your own way, keep your money and bargain directly with your employer.

Stephen Hall, a math and science teacher in Flint, is one of the many government employees who would very much like that option.

Hall is by no means anti-union; he would just like the opportunity to bargain with his school himself so he can have a benefits package more suitable for his family’s needs. For example, he’d like to negotiate one week of time off during the school year so he can take the family to a Disney theme park when the lines aren’t miles long. (And we, personally, think the school would be Goofy not to give that to him.)

If passed, this worker’s choice bill would be the first of its kind in the nation. It would apply only to public sector unions; for workers and unions of private sector firms to have the same options, Congress would have to act.

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The fights this year over right-to-work, a 70-year-old reform that is now embraced by a majority of U.S. states, show us why that might be a good idea. As long as unions represent non-dues payers, they will continue to press the case — in the courts or at the ballot box — that this isn’t fair and should be made right. By passing worker’s choice reform, Congress could make it a non-issue.

Labor leaders might oppose the reform, but they wouldn’t be able to complain about its unfairness with a straight face. And the individual workers who would then have a choice? They just might go to Disneyland.

F. Vincent Vernuccio is director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Jeremy Lott is an adjunct scholar at the center. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions.

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