First Amendment Attacked in the Constitution State

Politicians Fear Public Servants Will Assert Free-Speech Rights

To protect the bosses of monopolistic government unions who have massively subsidized their political campaigns for years and years, Big Labor legislators in Connecticut are determined to slash the Janus decision’s impact. Credit: Ed Gamble

On March 10, just a few days before the Connecticut Capitol was shut down as part of the Constitution State’s efforts to combat the coronavirus, members of the House Labor and Public Employees Committee in Hartford launched a new blitz against civil servants’ freedom of speech.

In a little-publicized vote, the panel rubber-stamped H.B.5270, legislation that effectively requires government employers in Connecticut to siphon money out of employees’ paychecks and funnel it to Big Labor without their consent.

It’s now been nearly two years since the U.S. Supreme Court decided, in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, that government employers across the country may not deduct union dues or fees from employees’ paychecks unless the employees “clearly and affirmatively consent before any money is taken from them.”

Hartford’s Big Labor Politicians Regard Janus As a ‘Problem’

But Hartford’s Big Labor politicians, who have relied for decades on political support financed by forced union dues and fees, extracted from employee paychecks, to get elected and reelected, regard Janus as a “problem.”

Union-label legislators openly admit that their intent in supporting H.B.5270 is to push back against Janus, a landmark legal victory for individual freedom that was argued and won by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation Staff Attorney Bill Messenger on behalf of Illinois civil servant Mark Janus.

For example, Senate President Pro- Tem Martin Looney (D-New Haven) recently commended H.B.5270 and its companion in his chamber, S.B.228, for furnishing a “creative solution” for politicians who fear large numbers of civil servants will assert their free-speech rights and stop bankrolling their campaigns.

Under H.B.5270 and S.B.228, public employers in Connecticut would effectively be required to violate civil servants’ First Amendment rights.

National Right to Work Committee Vice President John Kalb explained:  “This power grab would legally prohibit employers from ceasing to deduct dues from employee paychecks simply because an employee personally informs them that he or she no longer belongs the union and does not wish to bankroll it.

“State and local government agencies would normally only be permitted to stop siphoning a portion of an independent-minded employee’s pay into union coffers when the union says they may do so.”

Union Bosses Would Effectively Be Authorized to Ignore Member Resignations

“And union chiefs,” continued Mr. Kalb, “would be statutorily authorized, in effect, to ignore employee resignation notices. They would continue to toss in the trash all such notices unless they were submitted during a brief, Big Labor-determined ‘window period.’”

Connecticut is just one of a number of longtime Big Labor stronghold states in which union bosses and their allied politicians are doing everything they can to prevent public servants who were union members against their will prior to Janus from exercising their now-recognized First Amendment rights.

Their machinations have undoubtedly prevented large numbers of civil servants from escaping Big Labor’s clutches up to now, but even so data assembled in the Union Membership and Earnings Database by labor economists Barry Hirsch and David Macpherson show Janus has already had a significant financial impact.

The Hirsch-Macpherson data show that, by 2019, the number of coerced government union members/fee payers in the 21 states with wide-ranging public-sector compulsory unionism pre-Janus had fallen by almost half a million from its 2017 level.

When the membership drop is combined with nonmembers who can no longer be forced to pay union fees to keep their jobs, it amounts to a 9% decline post- Janus.

“It’s not surprising that union-label politicians in Hartford are determined to pass legislation like H.B.5270/S.B.228 to minimize their Big Labor bankrollers’ Janus-induced losses in membership and money,” said Mr. Kalb.

“But the National Right to Work Committee and its Constitution State supporters will do everything we reasonably can to stop them.

“The Committee has already written every representative and senator in Connecticut urging them to oppose this ‘assault’ on the state’s independent-minded public employees and taxpayers.

“The Connecticut Legislature may soon reconvene and schedule a floor vote on H.B.5270/S.B.228. I strongly urge freedom-loving citizens statewide to contact their politicians and urge them to vote ‘No.’

“This is an uphill battle, but one Right to Work backers must fight.”