Imminent Janus Court Ruling May Severely Impact Government Unions

The U.S. Supreme Court is about to rule on Janus vs AFSCME, a case that challenges the ability of public sector unions to force government workers to pay union dues. Depending on the scope of the ruling, this case could dramatically affect the political power of big labor in the United States.

The case hinges on the assertion by plaintiff Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois, that everything a public sector does is inherently political. As a result, Janus argues, even the so-called “agency fees” the union charges – ostensibly to fund nonpolitical activities such as contract negotiations – are a violation of his right to free speech. He’s got a strong case, because nearly everything public sector unions negotiate have a direct impact on public policy.

When a public sector union negotiates for increased pension benefits, for example, every other budget item is affected. In states like California and Illinois, costs for public employee pensions are exceeding 10% of total tax revenuess in some cities and counties, crowding out other public services with no end in sight. And everywhere public sector unions are active, their impact on budgets, along with their negotiated work rules, significantly alter how our elected officials set policy priorities and how they manage our government agencies.

HIGH STAKES

The stakes in the Janus case are epic. Nearly half of all unionized workers in the United States are government workers. Public sector unions collect and spend nearly $6.0 billion per […] Read More

A Post-Janus Agenda for California’s Public Sector Unions

“If you do not prevail in this case, the unions will have less political influence; yes or no?” Kennedy asked. “Yes, they will have less political influence,” Frederick answered. – an excerpt from the Janus vs. AFSCME trial, quoted in the Washington Post, February 26, 2018

Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Janus vs. AFSCME case. Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois, is challenging the right of unions to charge “fair share” fees, because he disagrees with the political agenda which he claims his fees help pay for.

What if government unions were accountable to their members? What if the politics of these unions mirrored the politics of the members? Would Mark Janus still want out?

It’s already possible for public employees to “opt-out” of paying that portion of their dues that fund explicitly political activity, although in practice the unions typically make that opt-out process very difficult. But Mark Janus is arguing that all dues paid to public sector unions are political, because the consequences of collective bargaining in the public sector impact taxes, government debt, budgets and spending priorities. He is arguing that the agenda of public sector unions, including collective bargaining, is inherently political.

In reality, saying all public sector union activity is inherently political is itself an understatement. In California, public sector unions spend about $300 million per year on explicitly political activity – funding political campaigns, political action committees, and lobbyists. But they spend at least another […] Read More