Biden Bureaucrats Move to Gut Constitutional Right to Work Protections For Federal Employees

When Right to Work advocates made their first valiant, although diffuse, efforts to stop the spread of government-imposed compulsory union membership in the private sector during World War II, few, if any, of them imagined that, within less than a generation, the virus of monopolistic unionism would hit the public sector.

Unfortunately, by the late 1950’s, it had. In 1958 and 1959, respectively, a New York City ordinance and a Wisconsin statute handing union bosses so-called “exclusive” bargaining power over civil servants went on the books.

And in 1961, then AFL-CIO President George Meany and other top union bosses, who just a couple of years earlier had publicly denied any interest in taking control over labor-management relations in public workplaces, eagerly and openly anticipated making union membership a mandatory condition of employment within the federal government! They expected freshly elected President John F. Kennedy, who had benefited greatly from Big Labor support during his hard-fought 1960 campaign for the White House, to do the job for them.

But after the National Right to Work Committee, then just six years old, and its members loudly protested against the AFL-CIO scheme to force Americans to join and bankroll a union simply for the privilege of working for the federal government, JFK decided he would not go as far as Big Labor was demanding.

Executive Order 10988, issued by the President in early 1962, empowered government union bosses to act as federal civil servants’ monopoly-bargaining agents on key matters concerning their terms of conditions and employment. At the same time, E.O.10988 explicitly protected the individual employee’s freedom to work regardless of union membership or nonmembership.

Union kingpins weren’t happy about being denied their most cherished privilege. But they calculated they could “fix” E.O.10988’s troublesome Right to Work provision somewhere down the road. In 1978,

they were sure their day had come after Democrat President Jimmy Carter moved to codify JFK’s monopoly-bargaining policy in his so-called Civil Service “Reform” Act (CSRA). Unfortunately for George Meany and Co., Carter ultimately heeded Right to Work protests against forced union membership and dues for federal employees, just as JFK had done.

Like E.O.10988, the CSRA generally protects federal employees’ Right to Work. But the statute has one significant loophole: Sec.7115(a) effectively states that, once a federal civil servant becomes a union member and the government begins deducting union dues out of his or her paycheck, the employee cannot stop the dues deductions until one year has gone by.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus decision, which found all forced extractions of union dues or fees from public employees as a job condition to be in violation of the First Amendment, the Sec. 7115(a) loophole is, at best, constitutionally dubious. Nevertheless, this year, Democrat President Joe Biden and his handpicked bureaucrats are moving to widen it to such an extent as to turn the 2.8 million-member civilian federal workforce into a de facto compulsory-unionism shop!

Unlike JFK and Jimmy Carter, Joe Biden evidently doesn’t know how to say “No” to union bosses seeking forced-union-dues privileges. And neither do Biden’s appointees to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA).

At the end of last year, the Biden FLRA proposed a new rule “reinterpreting” Sec.7115(a) in order to make automatic deductions of union dues from the paychecks of federal employees who no longer wish to belong to the union, and perhaps only joined under duress in the first place, “perpetually irrevocable” except during a tiny “opt out” period consisting of one day out of every 365!

As the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (whose staff attorney Bill Messenger argued and won the Janus decision on behalf of an independent-minded Illinois civil servant) has pointed out in comments opposing the proposed FLRA rule, this flawed interpretation of the CSRA would trap federal employees into subsidizing an entire year of unwanted union “representation,” simply because they missed their one-day opening to opt out.

This would be a blatant violation of public employees’ free-speech rights as recognized by Janus. But Joe Biden and his FLRA employees clearly have no problem with gutting the First Amendment if the result is more conscripted money and power for the President’s Big Labor allies.

If you have questions about whether union officials are violating your rights, contact the Foundation for free help. To take action by supporting The National Right to Work Committee and fueling the fight against Forced Unionism, click here to donate now.

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