‘This is nothing more than a scheme to legalize money laundering of taxpayer dollars…’
(Michael Barnes, Liberty Headlines) Union-friendly Oregon lawmakers are trying to circumvent a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that exempts government employees from paying dues, fees and other charges to labor unions if they opt out of joining.
Their proposed legislation, HB2643, could also provide a battle-tested framework for other states to follow and undermine last summer’s labor reform.
The landmark “right-to-work” ruling is known as the Janus decision, named after a government employee who refused to pay so-called “agency” fees to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees union, or AFSCME.
Janus strongly disagreed with the political activities AFSCME was funding through its members’ mandated contributions. Almost all union political advocacy benefits Democratic candidates and causes. The case originated in Illinois, where the state government required its employees to pay fees to government unions as a condition of employment. The Supreme Court effectively negated that law.
But in Oregon, a plan is underway to simply restructure the way traditional government-to-worker-to-union payments were made.
According to the HB2643 bill, filed by state Rep. Paul Holvey, a Democrat from Eugene, the payments would go from the government directly to a union.
In other words, a state employee making $50,000 pre-Janus would have had to pay $1,000 in fees to a union whether they wanted to belong to a union of not. But under the newly proposed arrangement, the employee would be paid $49,000 with the government sending a labor union $1,000 directly.
The pro-worker, free-market leaning Freedom Foundation said it will immediately sue the state if the bill becomes law.
The organization contends that the proposed arrangement creates a “slush fund” from which the Democratic controlled state government pays left-leaning unions with taxpayer money that’s actually earned by workers—many of whom may not even want to be in a union.
“This is nothing more than a scheme to legalize money laundering of taxpayer dollars,” said Aaron Withe, Oregon director of the Freedom Foundation.
“It’s a classic example of government unions’ influence at the capital. They’ve funded these politician’s campaigns; now they expect a return on their investment,” said Withe.
Lee Saunders, national president of AFSCME, is already on record concerning the scheme.
Government labor unions are desperate for cash now that a major coercive funding source has been cut off, but Saunders said he was nervous about direct government payments after the June 2018 Janus ruling, according to an interview in The American Prospect.
“Direct payments from the employer to the union are prohibited in the private sector because they compromise the independence of the union,” he said. “No experienced union negotiator would want his or her management counterpart to literally control union revenue.”
“A direct payment from the government employer will also undermine the union’s credibility with its own members,” Saunders continued.
But that doesn’t mean the upside in additional cash-flow for the unions isn’t worth it—especially if unions’ membership and political influence continues to decline nationwide as workers, even in safe government jobs, choose to opt out and voters help advance more right-to-work laws.