Increase Amount Taxpayers Are Bankrolling Government Unions?
Big Labor Politicians Plot to Circumvent High Court Decision
Thanks to a landmark U.S. Supreme Court victory won by Illinois civil servant Mark Janus, with the assistance of a legal team led by Right to Work staff attorney Bill Messenger, government union bosses now face the potential loss of hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in coerced dues and fees.
In Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, the High Court recognized, for the first time, that it is flat-out unconstitutional for government union chiefs and public employers to cut deals forcing civil servants to pay for the advocacy of a union they would never voluntarily join, or be fired.
‘Employees [Must] Clearly And Affirmatively Consent Before Any Money Is Taken’
Union-label legislators and governors who have largely depended on Big Labor’s forced dues-funded largesse to get elected and reelected are obviously afraid of what will happen once their patrons have to depend on genuinely voluntary support from members for their future funding.
To ensure that frightening scenario never materializes, months before the Janus decision was announced, politicians in many of the roughly two dozen states where forced government-sector union dues were still permissible pre-Janus began introducing and adopting countermeasures.
The language of the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 ruling is unambiguous:
“Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the [public] employee affirmatively consents to pay.
“By agreeing to pay, nonmembers are waiving their First Amendment rights, and such a waiver cannot be presumed. . . .
“Unless [public] employees clearly and affirmatively consent before any money is taken from them, this standard cannot be met.”
But this blunt admonition to state policymakers from Associate Justice Samuel Alito’s majority opinion, in which he was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, and Neil Gorsuch, is being blatantly ignored in some cases.
‘It Is the [Forced Dues-Funded] Union Movement That Drives the Democratic Party’
State lawmakers and executives in Big Labor strongholds like New York, California and Hawaii are doing everything they believe they feasibly can to deter educators, public safety officers, and other government employees from ever exercising their right to resign from, or never join, an unwanted union.
Empire State Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo has even publicly defended union bosses’ prerogative to trample workers’ First Amendment rights on the grounds that “it is the [forced dues-funded] union movement that drives the Democratic Party.”
A July 20 New York Daily News commentary by Daniel DiSalvo, an associate professor of political science at the City College of New York and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, highlighted several ways in which the Cuomo Administration is striving to prop up the Big Labor political machine.
For example, according to Dr. DiSalvo, New York State’s Labor Department is currently regarding many government workers as “union members,” and automatically deducting union dues from their paychecks, even though the union cannot produce any signed document confirming the workers actually are members.
If a worker’s name appears on a union membership list, but there is no tangible evidence the worker ever actually chose to be a member, it still counts as “affirmatively consenting” to pay for all kinds of union-boss advocacy, according to the Cuomo team.
Dr. DiSalvo pungently summed up the Cuomo Administration’s stance:
“[W]hoever the union says is a member is a member.”
‘Workaround’ Would Let Union Dons Continue Cashing in Even If They Lose Members
Ultimately, the schemes hatched by Mr. Cuomo and other like-minded politicians in New York and other Big Labor-dominated states to keep workers strapped to the mast of monopolistic unionism despite the fact there is no clear evidence they wanted to be members in the first place may well be blocked in court.
In fact, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the National Right to Work Committee are already helping independent-minded civil servants in a number of states prepare challenges to recently-concocted state statutes and regulations aimed at keeping coerced union dues flowing into government union coffers.
Aware that Janus-evasion strategies that maintain the pretense that government unions are workers’ organizations are far from guaranteed to succeed, some diehard Big Labor proponents are already pushing for a more radical response to Janus.
In July, Reason magazine reporter Eric Boehm described a legislative proposal drafted by New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) that goes down this road.
The Gottfried measure (which had yet to be formally introduced when this Newsletter edition went to press) would, in Mr. Boehm’s words, “tap taxpayers, rather than union members, to fund unions’ operations.”
Specifically, Mr. Gottfried would “redirect funds that could otherwise go to workers’ paychecks to cover the unions’ operating expenses.”
‘The Collectively Bargained Amount’ Would ‘Proportionally Reduce the Workers’ Salary’
According to Mr. Boehm, in a memo distributed to select fellow members of the New York Assembly, Mr. Gottfried explained that his bill would let “public employers agree to ‘direct reimbursement’ of the unions’ bargaining costs as part of contract negotiations.”
“The collectively bargained amount would then proportionally reduce the workers’ salary,” Mr. Gottfried wrote.
National Right to Work Committee and Foundation President Mark Mix commented:
“For the time being, Gov. Cuomo and other top-ranking Big Labor politicians in New York and their counterparts in states like California and New Jersey appear hesitant to embrace the concept of direct taxpayer funding of government unions.
“Even some government union officials are publicly saying, for now, that, as grateful as they are to Mr. Gottfried and other Big Labor partisans with similar ideas for thinking of them, they don’t want that kind of ‘help.’
“However, if over the next few months a substantial share of the roughly five million public employees who were forced, pre-Janus, to join or bankroll a union cease doing so as their Janus rights are implemented, Mr. Cuomo and the bosses of the national government unions may change their minds.
“Then, the 2.8 million National Right to Work Committee members will face major battles to protect New York, California, New Jersey, and other taxpayers from being forced to fund unions.
“These battles could be brutal, but Committee members will be fully prepared for them.”