Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Janus Decision a Win for Workplace Freedom

This week, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of plaintiff Mark Janus, a longtime American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) agency fee-payer.

Because he did not want to financially support AFSCME, Janus argued that his $45 monthly fee was unconstitutional, infringing on his First Amendment rights. Janus’ also claimed that, since public-sector unions like AFSCME negotiate with the government, agency fees inherently constitute a form of political advocacy that no American should be compelled to support.

Fortunately, the Supreme Court sided with the First Amendment, freeing Janus and millions of public-sector employees from compelled speech. In Justice Samuel Alito’s words: “Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned.”

The Janus decision essentially extends right-to-work to America’s public sector, allowing employees to choose whether or not they wish to financially support the union soliciting money from them. As InsideSources’ Connor Wolf put it, “mandatory union payments are [now] outlawed in the public sector,” stripping public-sector unions of resources and much of their political clout. Union officials estimate a 20  to 40 percent drop in membership, which translates to millions of dollars in lost revenue. A 20 percent reduction in membership of the California Teachers Association, for example, would lead to more than $40 million in lost money. New York City’s United Federation of Teachers local projects a 20 percent reduction in membership will translate to $16 million in lost dues.

Extend the projections to all public-sector unions, and they lose hundreds of millions of dollars in political muscle—long used to curry favor from the Democratic Party and lobby for pro-union policies. As we’ve noted before, union officials have sent more than $1.3 billion in member dues to liberal advocacy groups in recent years—without prior approval.

Of course, the Janus ruling isn’t inherently anti-union; it merely forces AFSCME and other public-sector unions to make a stronger case for union membership to employees. Public-sector workers can still financially support a labor union, if they so choose. Janus just gave all of them that choice.

Categories: AFSCMERight-to-WorkTeachers Unions