As regular readers of this Newsletter know, in the 24 Right to Work states, employees who refuse to join the union that wields monopoly-bargaining power in their workplace can thereby refuse to pay dues or fees to that union.
The normal motivation for some or many employees to resist bankrolling their union monopoly-bargaining agent is their belief that the union hierarchy is acting contrary to their interests.
Incredibly, for decades union propagandists have publicly ignored this obvious fact.
Big Labor Pretends That Workers Refuse to Finance Unions of Which They Approve
Over and over again, they have insinuated that the vast majority of, if not all, employees in Right to Work states who exercise their legal prerogative to refuse to join and bankroll an unwanted union actually approve of what the union is doing.
But during the oral arguments for the U.S. Supreme Court case Harris v. Quinn (in which the plaintiffs are being represented, free of charge, by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys) on January 21, Big Labor finally dropped the pretense.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) lawyer Paul Smith effectively claimed his clients have the constitutional prerogative to force, with the government’s help, employees to pay “agency” fees for union “representation” that harms them.
Mr. Smith, representing union-label Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn as well as union officials, was pushed into a corner where he could not avoid acknowledging a fact that Big Labor has always sought to cover up thanks to the persistent questioning of Justice Sam Alito.
Listen to the Supreme Court Oral Arguments in Harris v. Quinn:
Should Teachers Have to ‘Pay’ A Union to ‘Make an Argument’ With Which They Disagree?
Mr. Alito repeatedly grilled Mr. Smith about whether it is permissible, under the First Amendment, for the government to force public employees to bankroll a private organization, e.g. a union, that they reasonably believe is harming them.
At one point, the justice cited the example, well-grounded in reality, of a teacher union that opposes merit pay and any change in the tenure system, and a teacher who is not a union member and “disagrees completely with the union on these issues.”
Even though the teacher is not a union member, continued Mr. Alito, he “still has to pay a pretty hefty agency fee, maybe $700 a year.
“So the teacher is paying this money to the union to make an argument to the employer with which the teacher completely disagrees.”
Mr. Alito subsequently asked what Mr. Smith would say to such an employee.
Union Lawyer Didn’t Even Pretend Union Monopolies ‘Benefit’ Objecting Employees
The SEIU lawyer didn’t make any pretense that teachers and other types of public employees who oppose union officials’ workplace agenda nevertheless somehow “benefit,” on the whole, from having those union bosses act as their monopoly-bargaining agents, and should therefore be forced to pay dues, or be fired.
Instead, Mr. Smith, invoking the very pro-Big Labor coercion U.S. Supreme Court precedent that Harris is challenging, insisted that the forced-dues “requirement is an appropriate thing which a public employer is allowed to impose” on employees who are harmed by the union as well as those who may be helped.
The fact that, 37 years ago, the High Court gave forced fee-hungry government union bosses a green light, under certain conditions, to “interfere” with “an employee’s freedom to associate for the advancement of ideas, or to refrain from doing so, as he sees fit,” has never cowed Pamela Harris.
The main occupation of Ms. Harris, an Illinois homemaker and the lead plaintiff in the Harris case, is taking care of her developmentally disabled son, Joshua.
‘I Kept asking, “What’s The Benefit to Me?” I Could Never Get an Answer’
Joshua gets “financial help from a state program funded through Medicaid” to help cover the cost of his care, as Sean Higgins of the Washington Examiner explained in a January 6 profile of Ms. Harris.
Mr. Higgins continued: “Technically, the subsidy goes to Joshua, who ‘employs’ his mother as a home health care worker. Because of this arrangement, Illinois has decided that not only is she a state employee, but that it has a compelling interest that she join a union.”
Ms. Harris doesn’t believe that the unionization of herself and of other similarly situated Illinoisans would behoove care providers, the disabled, or the public as a whole.
She told Mr. Higgins: “I kept asking, ‘What’s the benefit to me?’ I could never get an answer.”
Of course, from the time union organizers first appeared at her front door more than four years ago, having been given her home address by the state without her knowledge, they have been making gauzy promises.
“They said they could get me extra money, but I know the program is capped,” Ms. Harris recalled.
“Freedom-loving Americans from coast to coast hope the High Court will take the opportunity in Harris v. Quinn to correct the grave error that it made back in 1977 in Abood,” said National Right to Work Committee President Mark Mix.
“Of course, a ruling is not expected any sooner than May or June, and no one knows what conclusion a majority of the nine justices will come to.”
Novel Admission by Top Union Lawyer Can Raise Heat On Big Labor Politicians
“However, regardless of how Harris turns out, legally speaking, what happened at the oral hearing can and should raise the heat on Big Labor federal and state politicians who have perpetuated forced union dues and fees up to now,” Mr. Mix continued.
“The fact is, SEIU lawyer Smith answered ‘Yes, your Honor’ when asked by Justice Alito if an employee who’s not a union member should have ‘to pay for the union to bargain with . . . the State to achieve something that’s contrary to that person’s interest.’
“Now that a top union lawyer has acknowledged that union officials want the government to force employees to pay money to unions that hurt them, state legislators and members of Congress voting on Right to Work legislation should also be asked directly if they think Big Labor deserves that special privilege.
“The monopoly-bargaining excuse for forced union fees the Supreme Court swallowed decades ago in Abood, based largely on the unexamined presumption that workers who don’t want a union nevertheless somehow ‘benefit’ from being under union control, is no longer viable even as a pretext.
“From now on, anti-Right to Work politicians shouldn’t be able to hide from the reality that what they favor is forced dues for harmful ‘representation.’”