Unions Must Stick to Basics if Janus Decision Goes Against Them

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

The Janus v American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees case will be argued before the United States Supreme Court today and many are predicting that public employee unions will be crippled if the court decides against the union—but only if the union doesn’t do its job of representing workers the way they want to be represented.

The issue raised in the case by the plaintiff, Mark Janus, an Illinois public employee, is that mandatory fees he pays are used to advocate positions, many political, that he does not agree with. His First Amendment rights are injured under the current system, he says. Unions opposing the lawsuit say they need the fees to represent all workers in collective bargaining with the government entities with which they negotiate.

California is one of 22 states that require what is known as “fair share” or agency fees. California public unions, which have a mighty sway over the state’s policy and politics, could feel the pain if the court rules that workers can forgo the mandatory fees and many workers decide not to pay the fees.

Recently, the influential California Nurses Association held rallies around the state critical of the court taking up the Janus case. Union officials said a ruling in favor of Janus would effectively starve the union of funds.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Unions performing the tasks public employees expect of them will retain their loyalty. It is when the unions insist in going far afield and involving themselves in all kinds of political issues that do not directly affect the workplace that the unions get crosswise with many workers.

A Wall Street Journal article Friday listed some public union activities that didn’t exactly fall under typical collective bargaining issues that union dues pay for including gun control laws, statehood for the District of Columbia, marijuana legalization, immigration reform, restoration of voting rights for felons and even a call for the adoption of the metric system. Oh, yes, there were also the political sessions unions conducted dealing with the resistance to the Trump Administration and before that, resolutions in support of Hillary Clinton for president.

If public workers want to get involved in any of these matters there are plenty of organizations that advocate for these issues in which the union members can voluntarily donate. All kinds of groups from social justice organizations to taxpayer associations survive on voluntary donations.

Like these advocacy groups, if the unions want to continue their activism if a court decision wipes out the mandated fees, they will have to appeal to workers that the issues they are undertaking are in the workers best interest. If they succeed they will keep their supporters.

If the workers do not see the benefit in the union’s agenda, the workers will keep their money.

The union leaders are feeling pressure that they will lose support if the Janus decision comes down against them because they realize that many rank and file members are not in sync with the unions’ policy directions.

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