How “Release Time” Causes Taxpayers to Fund Government Unions

Based on an estimated total membership of 1.1 million and average dues per member of around $700, California’s public sector unions collect and spend approximately $800 million per year. The impact of the June 2018 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Janus vs AFSCME may have chopped around $50 million off that annual total, by eliminating the union’s ability to collect agency fees from non-members. Nonetheless, California’s public sector unions still collect a stupefying amount of money every year, and remain one of the most powerful special interests in the state.

The long-term impact of the Janus decision has yet to be felt. Will California’s public sector unions slowly lose membership? Or will they retain or even grow their membership by being more accountable to their members, or, equally likely, by continuing to make quitting the union an exercise in bureaucratic futility so daunting that few try, and even fewer succeed?

The Janus case, and union dues, however, are not the only areas where reformers should direct their attention. While union dues account for the vast majority of total union revenue, another way that taxpayers support public sector unions is through so called “release time.” The total value to California’s public sector unions of the release time subsidy statewide is surprisingly high – just for California’s K-12 public schools, the value of this subsidy could be estimated as high as $100 million per year.

Release time is the practice whereby government employees take time off […] Read More