Pub­lic Sec­tor Unions In Tur­moil

Riverbank News - - PERSPECTIVE - By DAN WE­BER

The world of or­ga­nized la­bor is in tur­moil in the af­ter­math of the June 27 Supreme Court de­ci­sion ban­ning pub­lic sec­tor unions from col­lect­ing fees from nonunion work­ers. At­tor­ney Mark J. Neu­berger, who spe­cial­izes in em­ploy­ment law at the firm of Fo­ley & Lard­ner, says the rul­ing was “a stun­ning blow to pub­lic sec­tor unions.”

The court’s ac­tion has neg­a­tive im­pli­ca­tions for the abil­ity of pub­lic sec­tor unions to fund po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns go­ing for­ward. I don’t be­lieve the rul­ing is a death blow, but it can have the ef­fect of putting a limit on im­pact of union po­lit­i­cal power.

In Cal­i­for­nia, The Na­tional Right to Work Foun­da­tion has filed a law­suit against the state’s largest pub­lic em­ployee union, SEIU Lo­cal 1000, seek­ing the re­turn of $100 mil­lion it col­lected from some 40,000 work­ers over the years. The suit claims that the union used “bur­den­some” opt-out pro­ce­dures to col­lect the fees that were out­lawed by the high court.

Mean­while, New York State is tak­ing mea­sures to stop col­lect­ing “agency shop fees” from some 31,000 non-union state work­ers. And, groups op­posed to state em­ployee unions, are tar­get­ing “two groups: new pub­lic em­ploy­ees and dis­en­fran­chised or dis­in­ter­ested mem­bers vac­il­lat­ing on whether they want to join and pay dues,” ac­cord­ing to a re­port at the lo­cal news Web site, lo­hud.com.

Sim­i­lar ac­tiv­i­ties aimed at cur­tail­ing the po­lit­i­cal power of unions have been in­creas­ing through­out the U.S. since the Supreme Court handed down its de­ci­sion.

As­so­ciate Jus­tice Sa­muel Al­ito wrote the ma­jor­ity opin­ion in the case of Janus v. Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees No 161466, which de­clared the “pro­ce­dure vi­o­lates the First Amend­ment and can­not con­tinue. Nei­ther an agency fee nor any other pay­ment to the union may be de­ducted from a non-mem­ber’s wages, nor may any other at­tempt be made to col­lect such a pay­ment, un­less the em­ployee af­fir­ma­tively con­sents to pay.”

One thing is for sure: pub­lic sec­tor unions will have less money in their cof­fers to sup­port the elec­tion of Democrats at all lev­els of gov­ern­ment. In ad­di­tion, unions such as the allpow­er­ful teach­ers’ unions may find it harder to re­cruit and keep mem­bers. The in­cen­tive to join or re­main in a union is weak­ened if a worker can ben­e­fit from a union’s ac­tiv­i­ties, such as col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing, with­out hav­ing to pay the union.

At­tor­ney Neu­berger says “the Janus de­ci­sion re­in­forces a right guar­an­teed by the First Amend­ment of the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion, that peo­ple should be able to de­cide which or­ga­ni­za­tions they want to join (and fund) and which they don’t.”

The blow­back from the unions – the teach­ers’ unions, in par­tic­u­lar – was fast and fu­ri­ous. That was to be ex­pected. But, some in­di­vid­ual teach­ers ap­plauded the Supreme Court ac­tion.

Made­line Will, who writes for Ed­u­ca­tion Week, re­ported in her on­line Blog, Teacher Beat, that “Ryan Yohn, an 8th grade U.S. his­tory teacher in West­min­ster, Calif., said the rul­ing felt like a ‘14-year-old dark cloud that’s been over my head has lifted.’ Yohn, along with other teach­ers, filed an am­i­cus brief in the Janus case ar­gu­ing that he shouldn’t be forced to pay union dues to an en­tity he doesn’t sup­port… Ev­ery worker in Amer­ica should at least be com­forted. They have an op­tion now, they have an out, and that means the unions will have to be more ac­count­able (to them).”

There is ev­i­dence the most pow­er­ful teach­ers’ union, the Na­tional Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion, which is con­sid­ered to be the largest la­bor union in the U.S., is ex­pected to be a big loser as a re­sult of the Janus de­ci­sion. The NEA might lose some 300,000 or more mem­bers and the rul­ing might cost the union $50 mil­lion or more.

Dan We­ber is pres­i­dent of The As­so­ci­a­tion of Ma­ture Amer­i­can Cit­i­zens, (http://www.amac.us) a se­nior ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion that acts and speaks on be­half of its mem­bers. The opin­ions ex­pressed are those of the author and not nec­es­sar­ily those of this pa­per or its cor­po­rate own­er­ship.

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