Janus vs AFSCME Ruling Imminent – What Will Change?

Supreme CourtIn February 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in Janus vs. AFSCME, a case that challenges the ability of public sector unions to compel public employees to pay agency fees. While public sector employees currently have the ability to opt-out of paying that portion of union dues that are used for political activities, they still have to pay agency fees. This is based on the presumption that all members of a bargaining unit benefit from union negotiations with management, therefore all of them should pay those costs.

The Janus case argues that in the public sector, even these negotiations are inherently political and therefore it would be a violation of the right to free speech to compel any employee to help pay for them. The Supreme Court appears likely to agree. In an unrelated case also affecting unions, this week the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled in favor of employers, affirming that “employers have the right to insist that labor disputes get resolved individually, rather than allowing workers to join together in class-action lawsuits.” The majority opinion was written by newly appointed Justice Gorsuch, reinforcing hopes that he will rule for the plaintiffs in the Janus case.

But will making agency fees optional result in dramatic change?

The potential is there for dramatic change, because as of 2017, 7.2 million government workers belong to a union. Their total membership nearly equals the total membership of private sector unions, 7.6 million, despite federal, state and local government workers only comprising about 17% of the U.S. workforce. In California, state and local government unions are estimated to collect and spend over $1.0 billion every year.

Clearly, a ruling for the plaintiffs in the Janus case will cause a reduction in public sector union dues revenue. If public employees are no longer compelled to pay agency fees, some of them will stop paying them. But how many will stop paying?

study released this month by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (IEPI) – which based on the composition of its board of directors appears to be sympathetic to unions – estimates that 726,000 public sector union members will no longer pay dues, a drop of around 10%. IEPI’s study also estimates that in California, public sector union membership will decline by 189,000, dropping from an estimated 1,235,000 members in 2017 down to 1,046,000 members. But will California’s public sector union membership really drop by 18%, taking nearly $200 million out of their annual collections?

Other data does support the 18% figure, even indicating it could be higher. A 2018 national survey released by the center-left organization Educators for Excellence posed several questions to teachers on the topic of union membership. For example, when asked “If you were not automatically enrolled into your union membership, how likely would you be in the coming year to actively opt in?” there were only 60% who were “very likely” to opt-in, and only another 22% who were “somewhat likely.”

The survey also asked non-union members – those members who have opted out of paying the political portion of their dues, but still pay agency fees – “If you could, how likely would you be to opt-out of paying agency fees to a union” there were 36% who were “very likely” to opt-out, and another 25% who were “somewhat likely.” How do these responses translate into lost revenue?

According to UnionStats.com, only about 6% of California’s public sector employees who are part of collective bargaining units have opted to become non-members, i.e., only paying the agency fees. Crunching these variables is problematic. Are the e4e national survey results representative of California? Are the responses by teachers in the e4e survey representative of public employees in other sectors? Nonetheless, the e4e survey results do suggest the revenue loss to public sector unions could be greater than the amount predicted by the IEPI study.

For example, if you assume that all of California’s public sector members who were “very likely” to opt out of union membership did so, and half of those who were “somewhat likely” to opt out did so, and if you made a similar set of assumptions based on the survey responses of the non-union members who were employed within collective bargaining units, you would see a public sector union membership in California decline by 320,000, a decline of 26%, from an estimated 1,235,000 members to 915,000 members.

The biggest unknown is the details of the upcoming Supreme Court ruling. While all indications so far are that the ruling will be in favor of Janus, what remedies will result? A huge variable will be which party will have to take the initiative. That is, will employees have to approach the unions and request to opt-out of membership, or will the unions have to approach the employees and request them to opt-in to membership? Another huge variable will be how often the opportunity to change membership status be offered. No matter whether union membership is based on employees getting to opt-in or having to opt-out, when will they do that? Once per year, within narrowly specified dates, or perpetually at any time? It is likely the ruling will leave many of these details up to the individual states to decide.

Which brings us back to California, with a state legislature that is a wholly owned subsidiary of public sector unions. As noted in detail (with links to the relevant legislation) in the CLEO policy brief “How Local Officials Can Prepare for the Janus Ruling,” California’s state legislature has been working overtime to circumvent the anticipated Janus decision. In summary:

“So how are the unions preparing for the Janus ruling? By (1) making sure the union operatives get to new employees as soon as they begin working, (2) by preventing agency employers from saying anything to deter new employees from joining the unions, and (3) by preventing anyone else from getting the official agency emails for new employees in order to inform them of their rights to not join a union.”

Public sector employees face a difficult choice. They can accept union representation, knowing that in most cases this results in their receiving over-market pay and benefits, or they can reject union representation, knowing that the agenda of public sector unions is almost always in opposition to the public interest. That’s not easy.

What must be easy, however, is for public employees to have access to whatever information is needed to withdraw from public sector union membership. This way, those who wish to stay true to the ideals of public service can put the interests of the public in front of their personal interests, by knowing how to jump through through whatever bureaucratic hoops the unions and the state legislature may put in their way.

This case constitutes a new challenge for those who oppose public sector unions. Making sure that to whatever extent the Janus ruling liberates public sector employees from the grip of public sector unions, those public employees will know how to realize their freedom, quitting those unions, putting the citizens they serve in front of themselves.

The Janus decision is expected by June 30th, if not sooner.

Edward Ring co-founded the California Policy Center in 2010 and served as its president through 2016. 

*   *   *

REFERENCES

UnionStats.com – Ref. “Union Membership, Coverage, Density, and Employment by State and Sector, 1983-2017”

California’s Government Unions Collect $1.0 Billion Per Year – CPC Analysis, May 2015

Understanding the Financial Disclosure Requirements of Public Sector Unions– CPC Study, June 2012

How Local Officials Can Prepare for the Janus Ruling – CLEO Policy Brief, October 2018

Supreme Court could free public employees from being forced to pay union dues

Union protestThe Friedrichs lawsuit should have done the trick. The case — full name: Friedrichsv. California Teacher’s Association — which would have made belonging to a public-employee union optional as a condition of employment nationwide, was set to pass muster with the Supreme Court last year. But when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February 2016, the almost certain fifth and deciding vote went with him, thus keeping half the country’s government workers forcibly yoked to unions.

But now a case similar to Friedrichs is upon us. On June 6, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation asked the Supreme Court to hear Janus v. AFSCME, a case involving plaintiff Mark Janus, a child-support specialist who works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and is compelled to send part of his paycheck to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, even though he says that the union does not “represent his interests.” Right-to-work proponents are optimistic that the Court will hear the case and that Neil Gorsuch, Scalia’s replacement, will come down as the fifth vote on the side of employee freedom and overturn the 40-year-old precedent established in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court held that states may force public-sector workers to pay union dues, while carving out an exception for the funds that unions spend on political activity. Not surprisingly, the squawking from the union crowd has already begun. At Education WeekMark Walsh refers to the litigants as “anti-union.”

The Janus case concerns only compulsory dues, or what the unions euphemistically refer to as “fair-share” payments. The Economic Policy Institute, an organization with strong ties to organized labor, claims that prohibiting fair-share payments could “profoundly affect the ability of millions of public-sector workers to improve their wages and working conditions and further the wage stagnation dragging down the economy.” But EPI is on thin ice here. First, the case will not affect unions’ ability to collectively bargain for their members. Second, between 1995 and 2015, the seven states with the highest private-sector job growth were all right-to-work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics. Additionally, Mackinac Center director of labor policy F. Vincent Vernuccio and reporter Jason Hart point out that “from 2012, the year Michigan passed right-to-work, until mid-2015, incomes in Michigan rose over nine percent, faster than the national average.” Former research fellow in labor economics at the Heritage Foundation James Sherk explains that “studies that control for differences in costs of living find workers in states with voluntary dues have no lower — and possibly slightly higher — real wages than workers in states with compulsory dues.”

Benjamin Sachs, a Harvard Law School professor specializing in labor law, calls Janus part of “an aggressive litigation campaign aimed at undermining unions’ ability to operate by forcing them to represent people for free.” In fact, the only laws that compel a union to represent all workers are on the books at the behest of the unions. As teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci writes, “The very first thing any new union wants is exclusivity. No other unions are allowed to negotiate on behalf of people in the bargaining unit. Unit members cannot hire their own agent, nor can they represent themselves.”

Even if the Court decides to hear the case, a decision in Janus is most likely a year off. But the unions are planning for the worst-case scenario. California Teachers Association Executive Director Joe Nuñez wrote in January that the CTA should be prepared for a 30 percent to 40 percent membership drop, but then hedged, saying that he doesn’t believe that the decline would be that dramatic. (Actually, CTA has been anticipating a post-Abood world for several years. In 2014, the union cooked up a PowerPoint presentation called “Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share.”) New York City teachers’ union leader Michael Mulgrew says that a national right-to-work outcome is inevitable. “We are going to become a right-to-work country. We are preparing for what we will do when that happens on the state and city levels. It depends on the provision in the laws and what states can do within that law — some states sign up members every year, others sign once.”

But whatever the membership drop might be, it will be damaging to the unions and could have widespread ramifications. And perhaps no group will be more affected than the Democratic Party. Naomi Walker, an assistant to AFSCME president Lee Saunders and a former Obama administration appointee, said that Janus “could undermine political operations that assist the Democratic Party.” She added, “The progressive infrastructure in this country, from think tanks to advocacy organizations — which depends on the resources and engagement of workers and their unions — will crumble. We need the entire labor and progressive movements to stand with us and fight for us. We may not survive without it — and nor, we fear, will they.”

It’s worth noting that in Wisconsin and Michigan, two recent entries in the right-to-work column, teachers’ union participation is down considerably. Wisconsin’s NEA affiliate has lost almost 60 percent of its members and Michigan about 20 percent thus far. The loss of these unions’ political clout certainly was a factor in giving Donald Trump narrow victories in both states. Should the Court decide for Janus in Janus, neither the apocalypse nor utopia will be upon us, but much will change. Most notably, many government workers will have much freedom than they have now, and the Democratic Party won’t have the same bundles of cash flowing from union piggy banks.

A Supreme Court Litmus Test from Our Founders

Photo courtesy Envios, flickr

Photo courtesy Envios, flickr

As the March 20 start of confirmation hearings for Neil Gorsuch approaches, Americans have been hearing about litmus tests. For instance, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., have set up a standard of “being mainstream” in their eyes and respecting precedents they like, ignoring whether they violate the Constitution.

However, there is a far more relevant litmus test – our founders’ views of American government under the Constitution justices pledge to defend. They are worth reviewing as a primer for where attention should focus on any nominee for the Supreme Court.

Samuel Adams: The liberties of our country, the freedom of our civil constitution … it is our duty to defend them against all attacks … to maintain the rights bequeathed to us.

Patrick Henry: Liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.

Thomas Paine: A constitution is not the act of a government but of a people constituting a government … . All delegated power is a trust, and all assumed power is usurpation.

James Wilson: Government … should be formed to secure and enlarge the exercise of the natural rights of its members; and every government which has not this in view as its principal object is not a government of the legitimate kind.

Benjamin Franklin: An equal dispensation of protection, rights, privileges and advantages, is what every part is entitled to.

Thomas Jefferson: A sound spirit of legislation … banishing all arbitrary and unnecessary restraint on individual action, shall leave us free to do whatever does not violate the equal rights of another.

John Dickinson: We cannot be free, without being secure in our property … we cannot be secure in our property, if, without our consent, others may, as by right, take it away.

George Washington: [Government] has no more right to put their hands into my pockets, without my consent, than I have to put my hands into yours.

John Adams: The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. …“Thou shalt not covet” and “Thou shalt not steal” … must be made inviolable precepts in every society before it can be … made free.

Richard Henry Lee: It must never be forgotten … that the liberties of the people are not so safe under the gracious manner of government as by the limitation of power.

James Madison: The powers of the federal government are enumerated … it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.

John Taylor of Caroline: Every innovation which weakens the limitations and divisions of power … makes [government] strong for the object of oppression.

Alexander Hamilton: A limited Constitution … can be preserved in practice no other way than through the medium of courts of justice, whose duty it must be to declare all acts contrary to the manifest tenor of the Constitution void. Without this, all the reservations of particular rights or privileges would amount to nothing. … To deny this would be to affirm … that men acting by virtue of powers may do not only what their powers do not authorize, but what they forbid.

Joseph Story: The Constitution of the United States is to receive a reasonable interpretation of its language and its powers, keeping in view the objects and purposes for which those powers were conferred.

James Otis: An act against the Constitution is void.

George Mason: Flagrant violations of the Constitution must disgust the best and wisest part of the community.

Mercy Otis Warren: Any attempt [to] subvert the Constitution … cannot be too severely censured.

Our founders clearly revealed their central purpose was defending Americans’ rights and liberties against encroachment, particularly from overbearing government. That is the Supreme Court’s primary function. Therefore that should the central litmus test focus in evaluating Judge Gorsuch, as well as any other nominee, to the court tasked with preserving and protecting the highest law of the land.

Gary M. Galles is a Professor of Economics at Pepperdine University, a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, an Adjunct Scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and a member of the Foundation for Economic Education Faculty Network. His books include “Lines of Liberty” (2016), “Faulty Premises, Faulty Policies” (2014) and “Apostle of Peace” (2013).

WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com