Af­ter Supreme Court loss, la­bor union sees 6% drop in fees

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY ALEX SWOYER

One of the na­tion’s largest public­sec­tor la­bor unions has seen its fi­nances take a hit over the last 10 months af­ter the Supreme Court ruled it could no longer force work­ers to pay dues, al­low­ing tens of thou­sands of peo­ple to stop pay­ing.

The Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, County and Mu­nic­i­pal Em­ploy­ees said it had feared a big­ger drop and con­sid­ered the 6% de­cline in work­ers pay­ing fees to be a vic­tory.

But even that sin­gle-digit de­crease means mil­lions of dol­lars less to fund AFSCME’s ac­tiv­i­ties.

The drop came af­ter the Supreme Court ruled in June in Janus v. AFSCME that pub­lic-sector unions are in­her­ently en­gaged in po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­ity when they ad­vo­cate for is­sues such as smaller class sizes or hir­ing more gov­ern­ment work­ers. Forc­ing work­ers to pay dues, even if they aren’t mem­bers, amounts to mak­ing them pay for speech they may dis­agree with, the jus­tices ruled in a 5-4 de­ci­sion that over­turned a four-decade-old prece­dent.

Unions warned of a ma­jor hit to their abil­ity to rep­re­sent work­ers, fear­ing a mas­sive aban­don­ment of fee-pay­ers. Some of that has played out. In its lat­est fil­ing with the La­bor Depart­ment, sub­mit­ted in March, AFSCME said it rep­re­sented 1.33 mil­lion work­ers. That’s down from 1.41 mil­lion work­ers in its 2018 fil­ing.

“Though this rep­re­sents a bot­tom-line de­crease of 6% thanks to the Supreme Court’s de­ci­sion, it crushed union an­a­lysts’ ex­pec­ta­tions, which an­tic­i­pated a loss up­wards of 30%,” AFSCME said last month, not­ing the union at­tracted 9,000 new mem­bers.

Jar­rett Sko­rup, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor at the free-mar­ket Mack­inac Cen­ter for Pub­lic Pol­icy, cal­cu­lated AFSCME’s loss could be closer to 8% with­out count­ing re­tirees. He said the loss will hurt the union’s spend­ing over time.

“When you lose 8% of your mem­ber­ship, that is go­ing to be a very big deal to them and to their rev­enue,” Mr. Sko­rup said, adding it could have a “huge effect on their po­lit­i­cal power.”

Court­lyn Roser-Jones, a law pro­fes­sor at Ohio State Univer­sity, said she’ll be watch­ing to see what hap­pens over the next few years. “There is more of an in­cen­tive to be­come a free rider over time,” she said. “Next year you might see an­other 6%.”

One of unions’ ar­gu­ments for the fees was that unions ne­go­ti­ate col­lec­tive­bar­gain­ing agree­ments for all work­ers, so those not pay­ing for that ben­e­fit would be “free rid­ers.”

AFSCME was the union in­volved in last year’s court case, but it’s not the only pub­lic-sector union brac­ing for a hit. Oth­ers such as Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers also could suf­fer.

They have not yet re­ported their 2019 num­bers.

Pa­trick Sem­mens, vice pres­i­dent of the Na­tional Right to Work Le­gal De­fense Foun­da­tion, said some pub­lic-sector union mem­bers who want to stop pay­ing dues or fees have run into road­blocks.

Some states such as New Jersey en­acted laws in ad­vance of the Supreme Court rul­ing lim­it­ing the win­dow for gov­ern­ment work­ers to stop pay­ing the fees, pre­vent­ing them from tak­ing quick ad­van­tage of the high court’s de­ci­sion.

Some unions have re­sisted fee-pay­ers’ ef­forts to stop, say­ing their cur­rent con­tracts re­quire pay­ment.

“There is no ques­tion there are work­ers now that want to ex­er­cise their Janus rights and have been blocked from do­ing so,” Mr. Sem­mens said. “More time will help that.”

Mark Janus, the for­mer Illi­nois state em­ployee who chal­lenged the union fees, said he’s now work­ing to help peo­ple like him stop pay­ing unions they don’t sup­port.

He re­tired from his state job and now works for the Lib­erty Jus­tice Cen­ter, which helped rep­re­sent him dur­ing his le­gal bat­tle.

He said he is speak­ing with union mem­bers across the coun­try to let them know their rights. He said his or­ga­ni­za­tion has filed more than eight law­suits in five states to help en­force the rul­ing.

“I knew there was go­ing to be some push­back. I knew the unions weren’t go­ing to sit down or roll over,” Mr. Janus told The Washington Times.

“There is no ques­tion there are work­ers now that want to ex­er­cise their Janus rights and have been blocked from do­ing so. More time will help that.” — Pa­trick Sem­mens, Na­tional Right to Work Le­gal De­fense Foun­da­tion

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