Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Public Unions May Get Their Due

 
Mark Janus, who works for the state government in Illinois sued AFSCME, saying he does not agree with its positions and should not be forced to pay fees to support its work..

Public employee unions may have fleeced taxpayers one time too many. Two court cases involving Illinois residents resisting forced union fees and representation may give the US Supreme Court the opportunity to restore employee and taxpayer freedoms.

The High Court agreed to consider Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 on September 28. This case involves a state employee (Mark Janus) who argues that his requirement to pay fees to the union (AFSCME) violates his First Amendment rights. Unions require such fees even of nonunion members, like Janus, saying nonunion members benefit from union lobbying. Janus is asking the Court to overrule a 1977 decision, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that allows public unions to force nonmembers to pay a “fair share” of the collective bargaining costs. The justices will likely hear oral arguments in early 2018 and issue an opinion by the end of June.

In a column defending the union’s practices, the executive director of AFSCME Council 31 says the union is giving workers the ability to speak with one voice for everyone’s benefit. “When working people have the freedom to speak up together through unions, we make progress together that benefits everyone,” Roberta Lynch wrote in the State Journal-Register.

Yet it’s hard to substantiate Lynch’s claim that “everyone” benefits considering Illinois’ staggering public pension obligations, the result of years of unions lobbying state lawmakers. In June, the Illinois Policy Institute reported that Illinois has $250 billion in public pension debt, and a credit rating service has downgraded the state’s rating to “one notch above … ‘junk.’” Things have gotten so dire that more than one Illinois observer has suggested dividing the state into at least two parts because of Illinois’ debts.

The second case is Hill v. SEIU, in which an in-home assistant to individuals with special needs says she does not want to be forced to be represented by a union. Under Illinois law, some private individuals who are paid with public funds must be represented by a union. The union, of course, regularly lobbies lawmakers for special interests with which individuals may disagree. The Supreme Court has not yet announced whether it will take up this case.

The Janus and Hill cases have far-reaching implications into other policy areas such as education. These cases are making headlines not long after the Supreme Court was divided on Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, where a California public school teacher objected to requirements that government employees pay union fees even if they are not union members.

Rebecca Friedrichs was the lead plaintiff in a case asking the Supreme Court to rule that unions representing government workers can’t collect fees from those who choose not to join.

“Both of these cases are huge,” says Rebecca Friedrichs. The Court was divided 4-4 on Friedrichs’s case after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. “What’s happening with unions is that they have been given legally the permission to coerce fees from people who don’t want to pay them and to force their representation on people that don’t want to be represented by them,” Friedrichs told me in an interview.

Should the Court limit public employee unions’ ability to fleece individuals to fund special interests, the nation’s two largest teacher unions may find themselves in a bind. These interest groups have chummy relationships with progressive elites thanks to their taxpayer-funded bankroll. The American Federation for Teachers and the National Education Association regularly contribute to political action committees that fund progressive candidates, along with a hodgepodge of leftist causes, including the National Council of La Raza, the Sierra Club, and groups that advocated for Obamacare’s passage.

One would expect teacher unions to focus their resources on making sure students have quality learning options. Yet the unions consistently fight efforts to give students more opportunities in education. In recent years, unions sued to stop education savings accounts in Arizona and Florida (losing handily) and are now supporting efforts to repeal a law that would give more Arizona children choices in education when their assigned public school isn’t serving them well. Unions also tried to block charter schools in Washington State and have fought parental choice in education around the country for decades.

Should the Court rule in favor the Janus and Hill plaintiffs, public sector workers will have more workplace freedom, and unions won’t be able to play the bully as easily in public life.

Former union members agree: “The unions’ ‘benefits’ aren’t worth the financial or moral cost,” Friedrichs says.

There are 11 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. SteveSc Member

    “Public Unions May Get Their Due”

    I dunno, they are due quite a bit!

    • #1
    • October 18, 2017, at 4:01 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  2. JcTPatriot Inactive

    Fantastic Post, sir. Here’s hoping that the fight against the Public Unions will continue until they are gone. If the Unions want to exist on a voluntary basis, I don’t like the idea, but I suppose they can try. The truth is, whenever given the choice, most people opt out.

    I would like to see the President write an executive order stating that Union fees are no longer mandatory at the Federal level.

    That should end that nonsense fairly quickly.

    • #2
    • October 18, 2017, at 5:27 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  3. civil westman Inactive

    It seems passing strange that government employees should need unions. After all, their employers, all-knowing and eternally benevolent know precisely how to direct every aspect of all citizens’ lives. Surely, in its wisdom, the state knows what its employees require in salary and benefits. With a secular deity as boss, unions ought to be anathema.

    • #3
    • October 18, 2017, at 5:49 PM PDT
    • 11 likes
  4. Hammer, The Member

    Jonathan Butcher: In a column defending the union’s practices, the executive director of AFSCME Council 31 says the union is giving workers the ability to speak with one voice for everyone’s benefit. “When working people have the freedom to speak up together through unions, we make progress together that benefits everyone,” Roberta Lynch wrote in the State Journal-Register.

    This is particularly laughable. My wife is a (forced, in Washington) member of AFSCME, and we get all of its newsletters. Every fall, they publish their voter’s guide, which is essentially DNC outreach. I don’t know how much they spend on Democrat candidates, but they spent a good deal of paper sending us pamphlet after pamphlet about why we must vote for Hillary. The union certainly speaks with “one voice,” and that voice is extremely vocal against my wife, the way she votes, and the things she believes. I don’t believe that unions were ever useful, but they have certainly outlived whatever usefulness they may have had. While employees should certainly be free to get together and bargain (if they can convince enough employees to join them), our current setup is pure thuggery, blatantly and unapologetically left-wing. In my experience, it is the absolute worst workers who most support the unions, and we all suffer from all the “good” they accomplish. They cannot die soon enough or thoroughly enough.

    • #4
    • October 18, 2017, at 7:27 PM PDT
    • 10 likes
  5. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Johnathan,

    I always like to go back to first principles when discussing any labor union. A labor union is a conspiracy in restraint of trade. With the collapse of the American economy in the Great Depression it was accepted as the only means of maintaining a subsistence level of income for the poorest of working people. At that time FDR specifically refused to support public employee unions because it was obvious to even him that the conflict of interest threat was just too great. Public employee unions were made legal around 1960. Since that time they have relentlessly grown like a weed strangling the rest of the economy. They have no responsibilities when it comes to performance and with the taxing power of the state collecting their ‘profits’, their net package of benefits is climbing higher and higher. Only the default of the municipality they are bleeding can end their merry joy ride on the backs of the taxpayers.

    May the Supremes punch a huge hole in their balloon.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #5
    • October 18, 2017, at 7:50 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  6. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I think this approach is somewhat misguided.

    The whole point of public sector unions is not to represent workers in government jobs where they can’t be fired. The point is to funnel money into the Democratic party.

    The simplest, most direct approach is legislation that bans political contribution from public sector unions, on the grounds that any such contributions are, at a fundamental level, bribery.

    [added, it was late at night and I forgot to say…]

    If you remove the bribery mechanism, public sector unions will possibly shrivel up on their own.

    • #6
    • October 19, 2017, at 1:25 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. OkieSailor Member
    OkieSailor Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Don Tillman (View Comment):
    I think this approach is somewhat misguided.

    The whole point of public sector unions is not to represent workers in government jobs where they can’t be fired. The point is to funnel money into the Democratic party.

    The simplest, most direct approach is legislation that bans political contribution from public sector unions, on the grounds that any such contributions are, at a fundamental level, bribery.

    Good plan, absolutely no chance of it ever passing though. Unless enough voters wake up and elect responsible Reps in sufficient numbers….Naaahhh.

    • #7
    • October 19, 2017, at 2:56 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. JoelB Member

    While I do not favor public unions, prior to their advent state government employees were subject to a practice called maceing where party reps would come around and seek contributions to party functions. (Not required of course, but good job insurance, wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) This was before my time, but I heard about it from older state workers. This kind of behavior should be addressed if unions are to be abolished.

    Also, in my experience, even with the Democrat-front unions, the “evil” Republicans usually gave the government workers a better deal at contract time than the Democrats who were “for the workers”. This was especially true for management employees who were not covered by the union contract.

    • #8
    • October 19, 2017, at 4:56 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. Dr. Bastiat Member

    James Gawron (View Comment):
    They have no responsibilities when it comes to performance and with the taxing power of the state collecting their ‘profits’, their net package of benefits is climbing higher and higher. Only the default of the municipality they are bleeding can end their merry joy ride on the backs of the taxpayers.

    So true. I just can’t believe that mandatory membership in public sector unions is legal.

    Funny story – my parents both taught school in a rural public high school in nowhere, Ohio. Almost none of the teachers were Democrats (again, this is a farming community, where some people have heard of Democrats, but few people have ever seen one up close). It was time to elect the school’s representative to the NEA, and our only hard left whacko socialist teacher (who was an incompetent special ed teacher) ran a campaign, hoping to win what he viewed as a prestigious position. He received one vote – the vote he cast for himself. Another teacher received two write in votes, presumably from people who didn’t like him. So the special ed teacher lost a race in which he ran unopposed.

    The NEA and other public sector unions carry enormous clout in government, because they can collect fees against the will of their members. But they do not represent their members – at least, not nearly to the extent that most people think. If membership in these unions becomes voluntary, the Democrat party immediately ceases to exist in its present form.

    • #9
    • October 19, 2017, at 5:02 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Don Tillman (View Comment):
    I think this approach is somewhat misguided.

    The whole point of public sector unions is not to represent workers in government jobs where they can’t be fired. The point is to funnel money into the Democratic party.

    The simplest, most direct approach is legislation that bans political contribution from public sector unions, on the grounds that any such contributions are, at a fundamental level, bribery.

    Don,

    You’re right on target. This is the massive conflict of interest that appalled even FDR. Perhaps we need to see more local governments default before we are really going to realize the threat.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #10
    • October 19, 2017, at 6:45 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. namlliT noD Member
    namlliT noD Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    OkieSailor (View Comment):

    Don Tillman (View Comment):
    The simplest, most direct approach is legislation that bans political contribution from public sector unions, on the grounds that any such contributions are, at a fundamental level, bribery.

    Good plan, absolutely no chance of it ever passing though. Unless enough voters wake up and elect responsible Reps in sufficient numbers….Naaahhh.

    Two reasons it’s completely doable:

    1. “Bribery is bad” is a pretty good cause to get people to rally behind.
    2.  It’s in the GOP’s best interest, and we have a GOP majority.

    The counterargument is that the GOPe doesn’t actually want to win elections.

    The counter-counter argument is that the public sector unions would have to donate to Republicans to keep them from voting for such legislation, but that’s not gonna happen.

    • #11
    • October 19, 2017, at 8:13 AM PDT
    • 1 like

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.