California’s Government Unions Take Steps to Obliterate Janus Impact

Within days the U.S. Supreme Court is going to issue its ruling on the case Janus vs AFSCME. This case, if the ruling goes as expected, is going to overturn current law that requires public employees to pay union dues.

Here in California, along with a handful of other large, urbanized, very blue states, public-sector unions exercise nearly absolute political control. If a local government or school district passes a reform measure the union doesn’t like, the union-controlled state legislature passes a law to reverse it. If a politician criticizes a union prerogative, that politician is targeted and destroyed in the next election. If a business interest challenges the union, they are targeted with retaliatory legislation and bureaucratic harassment. If the union is successfully challenged in court, the union appeals as many times as necessary to nullify the ruling. They have infinite patience, the deepest pockets, and implacable resolve.

Pundits have claimed Janus will have a seismic impact on public sector union power. That is based on the premise that significant numbers of public employees will withdraw from paying union dues if they have the right. Notwithstanding the possibility that many public servants may appreciate that unions allow them to work less and make more than they would have to in the private sector, what if the bureaucratic process to stop paying dues is rendered so tedious that hardly anyone ever stops?

To that end, union-controlled states have already passed laws to make it very difficult to deny public sector unions their dues revenue. As reported by the Heartland Institute:

“New York recently initiated legislation that would empower unions and undermine states workers’ rights. Under current New York law, government workers who voluntarily join a union have been allowed to withdraw from having to pay the union dues deduction ‘at any time’ by notifying their employer. A new bill would terminate the ‘opt out’ clause and only allow workers to withdraw their dues ‘in accordance with the terms of the signed authorization.’ The Empire Center, a nonpartisan think tank headquartered in Albany, New York warns the proposed bill could force state workers to commit financial support to a union for up to 11 months. Another state following New York’s example is Washington State, where a new law was signed in March that mandates state collection of dues for public sector unions. And another bill in Washington would prohibit public employers from informing employees of their ability to avoid having to pay a union.”

These new laws are consistent with what’s been happening in California. As recently detailed in “A Catalog of California’s Anti-Janus Legislation,” public sector unions have supported the following legislation, much of which has already been enacted:

1 – Expanding the pool of public employees eligible to join unions – AB 83SB 201, and AB 3034

2 – Making it difficult, if not impossible, for employers to discuss the pros and cons of unionization with employees – SB 285 and AB-2017

3 – Precluding local governments from unilaterally honoring employee requests to stop paying union dues – AB 1937 and AB-2049

4 – Making employers pay union legal fees if they lose in litigation but not making unions pay employer costs if the unions lose – SB 550

5 – Moving the venue for dispute resolution from the courts to PERB, which is stacked with pro-union board members – SB 285 and AB 2886

An excerpt from an email obtained by the California Policy Center shows just how completely these public sector unions can dictate instructions to public employers. As depicted in the screen shot below, this email was sent to all of California’s public agencies that employ members of the California School Employees Association (Union). It was sent on June 19th by the CSEA chief counsel.

As can be read, this email requires a union member to receive union approval to revoke their dues, and prohibits the public agency’s payroll department from ending the dues withholding until the union has notified them. Then the email reminds employers that they cannot talk to “more than one employee about their right to drip union membership,” and recommends the employer “refer them over to CSEA to provide an explanation.” Finally, the bill makes all employee orientation information to remain confidential. This officially bypasses any reform group’s ability to find out about these meetings via a Public Records Act Request, and ensures that the union operatives will control the union membership content of the employee orientation.

This is arrogant language. It is offensive. Who runs our public agencies? Public servants elected by the people, or public sector unions? Nonetheless this communique is typical of how public sector unions have ran California’s state legislature and most of its cities, counties and school districts for decades. And in combination with the other measures – requiring notice of membership cancellation to only be permitted during one brief period each year, and automatically reinstating membership every year even for employees who have quit their union, and others – it is probably wishful thinking to expect a Janus ruling to have a serious impact on California’s public sector union power.

With Janus as a critical prerequisite, however, another landmark case is about to be in the spotlight. Lead plaintiff Ryan Yohn, a California public school teacher, has challenged the rules that require him to “opt out” of union membership. His case, which is still burrowing its way through the lower courts, could very well make it to the U.S. Supreme Court. As reported in The 74, “the California teachers argue that the current opt-out process for those who don’t want to pay dues is overly burdensome and also violates the Constitution. Instead, they maintain, educators who want to join should have to affirmatively opt into the union.”

Public sector unions run California, and make a travesty of democratic ideals. To say that government unions are one of the root causes of America’s deepest challenges is not an overstatement. They are one of the biggest funders of left-wing politicians and activists, enabling the Left to a degree far out of proportion to its actual grassroots support among Americans. They distort the political process to further their own interests. They intimidate and coopt business interests, especially in the financial sector. And they benefit whenever and wherever society fails, and government expands its power and reach in response.

Public sector unions should be illegal. Hopefully a strong ruling in the Janus case, followed by a strong ruling in the Yohn case, will both happen before it’s too late.

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