In February 2018 the US 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 US 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?
A 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.
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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
Teachers should stop listening to union leaders and look at the data before striking. When one looks at the actual dollars-and-cents reality, the emotional photo of the kindly old 1st grade teacher picketing for more money “for the classroom” falls flat. Very, very flat. There are several relevant facts that teachers and all Americans – especially the taxpaying variety – need to know.
It is impossible to achieve diversity without discriminating. The only way that would be possible would be if every imaginable human subgroup were equally qualified to perform every imaginable task. In reality, while individual talents vary dramatically in a manner completely irrespective of group identity, on average, groups exhibit huge and verifiable differences in aptitude.
The objective of diversity, however, is indifferent to this fact. To achieve their objective, discrimination against the more qualified is inevitable. To enforce this across all walks of life, a growing army of unionized government bureaucrats have been hired.
When it comes to discrimination in the name of diversity, California is the trendsetter. It is the most diverse state in America, it has the worst performing K-12 system of public education of any large state, and it has the most left-leaning electorate in America. And to enforce discrimination to ensure diversity, California has its all-powerful public sector unions, that will support any new bureaucracy that increases its numbers.
The University of California provides a perfect example of how discrimination to ensure diversity is working. Starting at the top, each campus has a “Chief Diversity Officer.” Take a look at the pay and benefits packages for these individuals, bearing in mind how many high-paid administrators must work for each of them:
(1) Berkeley, Oscar Dubón, Jr., Vice Chancellor for Equity and Inclusion, (2) Davis, Adela de la Torre, Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs and Campus Diversity, (3) Irvine, Doug Haynes, Vice Provost for Academic Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (4) Los Angeles, Jerry Kang, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (5) Merced, Luanna Putney, Associate Chancellor & Senior Advisor to the Chancellor, Ethics and Compliance, (6) Riverside, Mariam Lam, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Excellence and Equity, (7) San Diego, Becky Petitt, Vice Chancellor for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, (8) San Francisco, Renee Navarro, Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Outreach, (9) Santa Barbara, Maria Herrera-Sobek, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Academic Policy, (10) Santa Cruz, Ashish Sahni, Associate Chancellor, Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
The average pay and benefits for each of these ten University of California Chief Diversity Officers was $311,474 in 2016. To get just a partial idea of what members of their staff, or members of the California’s overall diversity bureaucracy make, go to Transparent California and search job titles under the key words “diversity” or “inclusion.”
The toxic impact of California’s unionized diversity bureaucracy is hard to overstate. California’s K-12 public schools have been destroyed by unionization, which, among other bad things, caused the worst teachers to end up in the poorest, most disadvantaged neighborhoods because they could not be fired. But why fix the K-12 public schools, when you have a diversity army that forces college admissions to reflect proportional representation regardless of academic performance?
The University of California’s “Freshman Admissions Count” for 2017 showed the following results by ethnicity: 34.2% Asian, 33.2% Latino, 23.8% White, 5.0% Black, and 3.9% “Other.”
Here’s where the tactics of the diversity army become truly suspect, because they aren’t just discriminating in order to achieve proportional representation. If they were, based on the numbers of college-aged Californians by ethnicity, 2017 admissions would have been 13% Asian, 50% Latino, 31% White, and 6% Black.
To put this in perspective, a recent California Policy Center analysis that took into account the number of college age students along with SAT performance, came up with what should have been UC’s 2017 freshmen class if admissions were based on merit: 21% Asian, 35% Latino, 41% White, and 3% Black. The CPC analysis, moreover, yielded understated results because the SAT criteria used was “met college ready benchmark,” whereas in reality the UC system purports to admit students who greatly outperform the “college ready” SAT benchmark. This is an important distinction – it means that in reality, a far greater percentage of Asians and significantly greater percentage of Whites would be admitted in a hypothetical merit based analysis, if more complete SAT data were accessible.
One can only assume the UC diversity bureaucracy, controlled by the UC Regents, who are themselves controlled by the State Legislature, did not reduce Asian admissions to their proportional representation because Asians still vote – by a margin of two-to-one, in favor of Democrats. So Asians were admitted to the UC system more-or-less based on their merit. Blacks were admitted based on proportional representation. Latinos, comprising 50% of college age students, but at most 35% of merit-based successful applicants, broke nearly even on that basis with 33% of the admissions. But where did that leave the Whites? Instead of being at least 41% of the successful applicants based on merit, only 24% of the UC system’s 2017 freshman class are White. Apart from keeping Asians firmly in the Democratic voting bloc, does any of the University of California’s systemic racial discrimination to enforce “diversity” actually help anyone?
It certainly doesn’t help White and Asian students who are left behind. It also doesn’t help Latino or Black students who are admitted to an elite university without having the academic skills to succeed. Rather than fix the ruined K-12 system that, thanks to union work rules, demonstrably provides inferior public education to the Black and Latino communities, the rules are changed and manipulated to get them into a UC program anyway. And then in an attempt to accommodate them, the campus syllabus becomes rife with academically weak majors in various types of ethnic studies.
Could it be that much of the campus polarization we are witnessing is because unqualified, struggling students are being indoctrinated to believe their academic failures are caused by racism instead of taking personal responsibility?
Discrimination to enforce diversity is not confined to academia. It is institutionalized across most of corporate America. It is enshrined in countless laws and incentives which are designed to “level the playing field,” but in reality discriminate against more qualified actors. It breeds bitterness and corruption. It creates tribalism where none had previously existed.
Ultimately, as America becomes more “diverse” at the same time as huge gaps in aptitude and achievement remain between groups, discrimination to enforce diversity in all areas of life will become increasingly tyrannical. And as it occurs, the role of government unions will remain pervasive and negative. They will continue to ruin inner city schools, then hire lavishly compensated bureaucrats to enforce equal outcomes.
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Edward Ring co-founded the California Policy Center in 2010 and served as its president through 2016. He is a prolific writer on the topics of political reform and sustainable economic development.
(1) The University of California’s “InfoCenter” has interesting data on graduation rates by ethnicity. The data is through 2016, meaning that graduation rates within six years of entry are available for freshmen entering the UC system in 2010. Here is a summary of results by ethnicity:
White – 64.5% graduated within four years, 86.1% graduated within six years.
Asian – 63.9% graduated within four years, 88.1% graduated within six years.
Latino – 47.1% graduated within four years, 77.6% graduated within six years.
Black – 46.8% graduated within four years, 75.4% graduated within six years.
(3) Some examples of pertinent information – at least to any diversity advocate (or critic) – that do not appear to be available on the UC “diversity” website pages are the following: What number and percentage of non-foreign undergraduates pursue STEM majors, by ethnicity, and what are their graduation rates? And, what number and percentage of non-foreign undergraduates pursue non-STEM majors, by ethnicity, and what are their graduation rates? What were the SAT scores – numbers and percentages by ethnicity – of applicants who were accepted to the 2017 freshman class in the UC system? What were the SAT scores – numbers and percentages by ethnicity – of applicants who did not gain acceptance to the 2017 freshman class in the UC system? With respect to SAT scores – is there any report that has compiled a bell-curve distribution showing the range of SAT scores from highest to lowest, proportioned by quantity of test takers, per ethnic group, on one overlay?
(4) The high school class of 2017 – admitted to the UC system as incoming freshmen in the Fall of 2017 – earned SAT scores by ethnicity as shown on the following chart (below) from the SAT College Board. As can be seen, across the U.S., the percentage of test takers who met the college-ready benchmark varied significantly by ethnicity – 70% of Asians met the benchmark, 59% of Whites, 31% of Latinos, and 20% of Blacks. Moreover, as documented by Ed Source, the disparity between the SAT performance of California’s students and all U.S. students is not significant. In fact, the average Math/Reading combined score for California’s White students was 1,153 vs. 1,118 nationally; for Latinos, 992 CA vs. 990 US; Asians 1,145 vs 1,181 US; Blacks 961 vs 941 US.
(5) In May 2016 the Public Policy Institute of California produced a study that includes data that tracks the correlation between SAT scores and graduation rates. As can be seen on Figure 4 in the study (shown below), the correlation is quite high. The upper chart depicts six year graduation rates, the lower chart depicts four year graduation rates. The orange dots represent results for Cal State campuses, which were the focus of the study. The more numerous grey dots represent similar universities nationwide. As can be seen, it is roughly accurate to state that for every 50 point improvement in a student’s Math SAT score, there is a 10% greater probability that they will graduate from college.
Correlation between SAT Math score and graduation
(6) As California’s population becomes more “diverse,” the proportion of “mixed race” individuals will proliferate. This is a welcome development to anyone who believes in assimilation, but may be of great concern to the diversity bureaucrats. For the UC System, for example, to handle this complexity, one recommendation is they require all applicants to submit to blood tests to determine their ancestry. Some of the new services, such as “Advanced Ancestry” can offer tremendous detail, showing the DNA based areas of origin for any human. The bureaucrats only need overlay that data with the geographic areas around the world that are known to be the places of origin for “marginalized peoples,” and they will have exactly what they need to continue to discriminate against individuals in order to enforce equality of group outcomes.
(7) Then again, since DNA affects individuals differently, it may not be possible to properly identify “people of color” for discriminatory favoritism based solely on geographically based DNA analysis. To compensate for this, the UC diversity bureaucrats can learn a great deal from the American Progressives of the early 20th century, and, for that matter, the German Nazis of the WWII era. Both of these groups created a robust set of best practices aimed at classifying humans based on their racial appearance. Going into the details of these best practices would go beyond the scope of this report, but clearly the UC diversity bureaucrats, and all diversity bureaucrats, can learn a lot of useful skills from their racist predecessors of the previous century.
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“If you do not prevail in this case, the unions will have less political influence; yes or no?” Kennedy asked. “Yes, they will have less political influence,” Frederick answered.
– an excerpt from the Janus vs. AFSCME trial, quoted in the Washington Post, February 26, 2018
Earlier this week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Janus vs. AFSCME case. Mark Janus, a public employee in Illinois, is challenging the right of unions to charge “fair share” fees, because he disagrees with the political agenda which he claims his fees help pay for.
What if government unions were accountable to their members? What if the politics of these unions mirrored the politics of the members? Would Mark Janus still want out?
It’s already possible for public employees to “opt-out” of paying that portion of their dues that fund explicitly political activity, although in practice the unions typically make that opt-out process very difficult. But Mark Janus is arguing that all dues paid to public sector unions are political, because the consequences of collective bargaining in the public sector impact taxes, government debt, budgets and spending priorities. He is arguing that the agenda of public sector unions, including collective bargaining, is inherently political.
In reality, saying all public sector union activity is inherently political is itself an understatement. In California, public sector unions spend about $300 million per year on explicitly political activity – funding political campaigns, political action committees, and lobbyists. But they spend at least another $700 million every year not just on collective bargaining – which for government workers is inherently political – but on education campaigns that attempt to influence voters on countless political topics.
Equally important is the influence California’s public sector unions wield that doesn’t derive its power from how much money they can spend, but from the fact that elected officials come and go, but the union hierarchy is permanent. Public employees who want to advance in their careers do not cross these unions.
Government unions are so powerful that only a very aggressive outcome in the Janus ruling will suffice to significantly undermine their power in California. The court must rule that union membership must be renewed annually via a transparent opt-in process. Only then will these unions become accountable to their members.
If there is an aggressive ruling in the Janus case that truly forces public sector unions to become accountable, imagine how it may affect the political agenda of these unions. One may hope it would ignite a civil war within these unions. Even in California, for example, about 40% of public school teachers identify as conservatives. Among public safety employees, a majority identify as conservative. Yet these unions are the power behind a state legislature ran by the most liberal politicians in the history of the United States.
Just for a moment, consider what these unions could do, if their leadership was committed to making California a land of opportunity again:
A PRO-WORKER AGENDA FOR CALIFORNIA’S PUBLIC SECTOR UNIONS
(if they actually cared about all of California’s working families)
1 – Restore the balance in California’s colleges and universities so that the ratio of faculty to administrators is 2 to 1, instead the current ratio wherein administrators often outnumber teachers.
2 – End all discrimination and base college admissions purely on merit. Expand STEM curricula so it represents 50% of college majors instead of the current 20%.
3 – Enforce the Vergara reforms so it is easier to retain quality public school teachers and easier to fire the incompetent ones. Eliminate barriers to charter schools.
4 – Restructure the penal system to make it easier for prisoners to perform useful public services. For example. along with working the fire lines during fire season, they could work all year clearing dead trees out of California’s forests. Use high-tech monitoring devices to reduce costs. Reserve current prisons only for the truly incorrigible.
5 – Scrap the High Speed Rail project and instead use the proceeds to add one lane to every major interstate highway in California.
6 – Use additional High Speed Rail funds to complete plant upgrades so that 100% of California’s sewage is reused, even treated to potable quality.
7 – Pass legislation to streamline approval of the proposed desalination plant in Huntington Beach, and fast-track applications for additional desalination plants, especially in the Los Angeles basin.
8 – Spend the entire proceeds of the $7.0 billion water bond, passed overwhelmingly by Californians in 2014, on storage. Build the Los Banos Grandes, Sites, and Temperance Flat reservoirs, adding over 5.0 million acre feet of storage to the California Water Project. Pass aggressive legislation and fund aggressive legal actions and counter-actions, to lower costs and enable completion of these projects in under five years.
9 – Permit slant drilling to access 12 trillion cubic feet of natural gas deposits from land-based rigs along the Southern California coast. Build an LNG terminal off the coast in Ventura County to export California’s natural gas to foreign markets. Permit development of the Monterey Shale formation to extract oil and gas.
12 – Require California’s public employee pension funds to invest a minimum of 10% of their assets in infrastructure projects as noted above. They could issue fixed rate bonds or take equity positions in the revenue producing projects, or a combination of both. This would immediately unlock approximately $80 billion in construction financing to rebuild California’s infrastructure. At the same time, save the pension systems by striking down the “California Rule” that prevents meaningful pension reform.
These reforms would lower the cost of living in California, at the same time as they would create resource abundance and hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs.
It is encouraging to think that the Janus ruling will reduce the political influence of public sector unions. But another possibility is equally tantalizing, that Janus will force unions to become accountable to their members. This, in turn, could be reflected in these unions fighting, for a change, to help all Californians.
To expect public sector unions to pursue the agenda outlined above is fanciful. But if California’s public sector unions were as committed to that pro-growth agenda as they are to their current agenda which is bankrupting California’s cities and counties at the same time as it obsesses over race, gender, and environmentalist extremism, they could probably get all of it done. And no other special interest could do this.
Only California’s public sector unions have enough power to successfully take on their current allies; the environmentalist lobby, the trial lawyers, and their puppet masters, the leftist oligarchy. No other special interest could take on these profiteers who have gotten filthy rich spouting leftist tripe, while they impoverished a generation of Californians.
Post Janus, it is time for a civil war within public sector unions. Using, hopefully, their option to not opt-in, it is time for public servants who care about ordinary Californians to make their voices heard.
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“Bargaining for the common good,” which greatly expanded the parameters of collective bargaining, was cooked up in 2014 by leaders from public sector unions and community organizations at a national conference held at Georgetown University. The meeting’s priorities included using “the bargaining process as a way to challenge the relationships between government and the private-sector; working with community allies to create new, shared goals that help advance both worker and citizen power; and recognizing militancy and collective action will likely be necessary if workers and citizens are to reduce inequality and strengthen democracy.”
By 2016, the movement had picked up momentum. At that time, Rachel Cohen wrote a piece for The American Prospect called “Teacher Unions Are ‘Bargaining for the Common Good.’” Prominently featured throughout the article are the United Teachers of Los Angeles and its president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, who claims that collective bargaining is “an important tool available to fight for equity and justice” and should go beyond issues like salaries and work rules. He envisions UTLA as a vehicle to push for collaborative policy alongside community organizations in bargaining for “the common good.”
In a 2017 interview with a radical education group at UCLA, Caputo-Pearl said, “In bargaining for the common good, we see great possibilities for a style of campaign that puts forward a vision for the city as well as for the schools.” He explained that his union is proposing the school district expand green space at schools, press the city for free bus passes for all students and provide a million dollar legal defense fund for students and family members who are facing deportation. Other public sector unions are involving themselves in community issues like affordable housing and improved city services.
Which brings us to the Friedrichs et al v CTA case. In 2016, that lawsuit ended in a 4-4 stalemate in the U.S. Supreme Court due to the death of Antonin Scalia. Had the case been successful, no public employee in the country would have to pay union dues as a condition of employment. The plaintiffs’ lawyers argued, “… bargaining with local governments is inherently political. Whether the union is negotiating for specific class sizes or pressing a local government to spend tax dollars on teacher pensions rather than on building parks, the union’s negotiating positions embody political choices that are often controversial.” As such, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education should be overturned and teachers should not be forced to pay any money to a union at all. (The 1977 Abood decision, which the unions applauded, stipulated that the fair share system is a workable compromise — workers should have to pony up for collective bargaining but not union political spending.)
But with “bargaining for the common good,” Caputo-Pearl and many other public sector union leaders across the country are insisting that collective bargaining should incorporate blatantly political issues. This could very well doom the union’s case in Janus v AFSCME, the follow-up to Friedrichs.
In Janus, the unions are likely to argue that workplace “coherence” makes it necessary for all employees to subsidize the union. The American Federation of Teachers amicus brief argues that it’s not enough for unions to just “try harder” to recruit dues-paying members. It claims that the presence of members and non-members in a school “sows discord and interferes with the close working relationships necessary to provide high-quality education.”
As teacher union watchdog Mike Antonucci points out, the unions will claim that fee-payers (those who opt out of paying the political portion of their union dues) “are not supporting unions’ political speech in any meaningful way.”
But out of the other side of the union mouth emerges a very different tale. In October Rob Weil, American Federation of Teachers director of field programs for educational issues, spoke to the Baltimore Teachers Union about the Janus case. Part of his talk dealt with the case’s potential impact on unions. While he didn’t use the phrase “bargaining for the common good,” he may well have:
• Unions will be forced to spend larger amounts of time and money on membership maintenance instead of other more progressive union activities.
• The progressive [movement] as a whole, and many specific groups, will lose resources (both $$ and people) which will lessen their impact. Some social partners may, unfortunately, no longer exist.
• The progressive agenda may have to be reduced in reaction to the new rules regarding dues collection.
The Janus oral arguments will take place on Fe. 26. Will “bargaining for the common good” and Weil’s comments doom the unions’ forced dues regime?
Larry Sand, a retired teacher, is president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network.
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On Monday, the United States Supreme Court will hear the case of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31. For California taxpayers, the potential impact is huge.
The issue is straightforward: Does public-sector unionism violate the First Amendment rights of workers who do not want to join a union?
The lawsuit was brought by Mark Janus, a resident of Illinois and an employee of the state as a child-support specialist. Because Illinois is not a right-to-work state, he was required to pay agency fees to the local chapter of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. In short, he was forced to associate with an organization with which he disagreed. A fundamental part of the First Amendment’s right of association is the right not to associate. As Thomas Jefferson noted, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
No one will be watching the case more closely than Rebecca Friedrichs, the California teacher who brought a similar right-to-work challenge here in California. Her case also went the United States Supreme Court where it was widely believed she would prevail. Regrettably, the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia left the high court deadlocked in a 4-4 tie. With the arrival of Scalia’s replacement, constitutionalist Justice Neil Gorsuch, the days of forced unionism for public employees may be numbered.
The Janus case presents the identical issue as the Friedrichs case and, even though it involves a public employee from Illinois, there is no dispute that a ruling in Mark Janus’s favor would have the same binding effect in California as if Rebecca Friedrichs had prevailed in her action against the California Teachers Association.
If the court rules for the plaintiffs in Janus, state and local government employees in the 22 states that are not right-to-work jurisdictions will no longer be forced to subsidize unions as a condition of their employment. Rather, they will be free to join the organizations of their choice or not to join at all. The same applies to their contributions of money. In short, Janus may very well resurrect employees’ rights to free speech and association, as well as restore political balance by preventing public-employee unions from spending money collected from workers who may be opposed to the union’s political agenda.
And that latter point is key.
In California, public sector unions are without question the dominant political force. With their ability to extract hundreds of millions of dollars annually from their members, they are able to set the political agenda (which usually includes big employee compensation packages) and are able to defeat even modest reforms in education, welfare and criminal justice. Moreover, their prodigious campaign spending allows them to rent politicians who will make sure that the collective bargaining agreements that are executed with the unions favor the unions to the detriment of taxpayers who must pay for all this largess. The business community and taxpayer interests in California enter every political battle at a disadvantage from the start.
It doesn’t take a seer to predict what will happen in California if the plaintiffs in Janus prevail. The experience in other states which have opted for right-to-work status has been dramatic. When union membership is optional, union membership — and forced union dues — decrease. It is very likely that the political strength of California’s public sector unions will diminish if public employees no longer have to pay dues. At that point, interests that favor lower taxation and a positive business climate might finally be able to have their voices heard.
Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.
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