Unions Drag Feet as Public-Sector Workers Try to Separate

‘I’m not sure how anyone could be opposed to letting workers decide for themselves…’

Workers begin taking advantage of freedom from unions

Washington, D.C. Metro/IMAGE: WBAL-TV 11 via Youtube

(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) After a key Supreme Court case earlier this year reinstating workers’ rights against union bosses, public-sector workers across the country are starting to opt out of union membership.

However, some unions or government employers are making the opt-out more difficult through slow compliance with the court ruling.

In Janus v. AFSCME, the high court ruled that “nonunion workers cannot be forced to pay fees to public sector unions.” The court ruled that the plaintiff, Mark Janus, had rightly complained that unions were using his dues for activities that by their very nature involved forms of political advocacy, thus violating his First Amendment right to not finance political speech with which he disagreed.

Some unions, or the government-run entities long accustomed to symbiotic power arrangements with the unions, have been accused of slow-walking, or even impeding, the transition away from forced union dues.

On Tuesday, The Washington Post reported that “A national anti-union group is threatening to sue Metro [the public-transportation rail system in the nation’s capital], alleging that the transit agency is violating a recent Supreme Court decision by continuing to deduct union dues from the paychecks of employees who did not give their consent—but Metro says that the allegation is false.”

Whatever comes from that dispute, unions continue to claim that their workers are so happy with the pre-Janus situation that they choose to continue to pay dues. The Albany Times-Union reported earlier this month that both the local and state education-employees’ unions report only slim losses in membership despite the freedom to opt out afforded by Janus. The state union spokesman said that only 200 members out of 450,000 statewide have opted out.

Other reports around the country might indicate that those numbers are difficult to believe. The Buckeye Institute, a public-interest think tank in Ohio, began a “Workers Choose” campaign, which actually provides workers “the tools they need to express their newly-recognized First Amendment rights.”

“For public-sector employees who seek to exercise their First Amendment rights and withdraw from their government union, WorkersChoose.org will allow them to initiate the process online in three easy steps,” said Buckeye president Robert Alt.

“For those workers who are happy to continue supporting their government unions, they also have the First Amendment right to maintain their membership in them,” Alt said. “The Janus decision is a win for all of our public workers, who are now respected and have a right to choose—and those choices must be honored. I’m not sure how anyone could be opposed to letting workers decide for themselves.”

Within three weeks, Buckeye also had already won two major legal victories for its worker clients. In both Maine and Minnesota, Buckeye forced unions to recognize the legal rights granted by Janus, rather than try some of the end runs that Metro and others are accused of.

And if statistics from Washington State are any indication, workers are thrilled to have the option. As in New York, union leaders in Washington asserted that they have had very few “drops” in membership. But the Freedom Foundation analyzed that actual data and found otherwise.

“As of September, nearly 20 percent of [union]-represented state agency workers (almost 6,500 people) were no longer financially supporting the union, costing [the union] an estimated $400,000 per month in lost dues/fees,” reported the foundation.

This occurred even though the union used tactics one worker described as “totally deceptive and dishonest” to trick workers into irrevocable status as union members.

“As Freedom Foundation continues to help state employers understand their rights and overcome the various barriers to resigning [the union] has created, a more accurate picture of [the union’s] true [lower] level support among state employees will eventually emerge,” the foundation said on its website.