Worker freedom: The Janus edition
With another right-to-work case headed to the Supreme Court, union lies and chicanery are in high gear.
Among the greatest myths in recent history include the belief that Che Guevara was a freedom fighter, that China in the 20th Century was a “People’s Republic” and “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” We can now officially add some egregious comments made by union bosses in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s willingness to hear the Janus v AFSCME case.
Mark Janus, a child support specialist who works for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, is compelled to send part of his paycheck to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Janus, who is being represented by the Liberty Justice Center and National Right to Work Foundation, says, “When I was hired by the state of Illinois, no one asked if I wanted a union to represent me. I only found out the union was involved when money for the union started coming out of my paychecks.”
The lawsuit is a sequel to Friedrichs v CTA, which was headed to a SCOTUS victory last year until Antonin Scalia’s death short-circuited the case. But right-to-work proponents are optimistic that his replacement, Neil Gorsuch, will come down as the fifth vote on the side of employee freedom. As things stand now, public employees in 22 states are forced to pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
Obviously, a favorable ruling in Janus would put a serious dent in in the coffers of government unions. And they are not reacting well to that possibility. In a press release issued by several union leaders after the Janus announcement, many of the comments are simply outrageous. As Mike Antonucci points out, the words “working people” are used 12 times. The union leaders seem to think that “working people” are a monolith with the exact same ideas, beliefs, and general worldview. Just a few of the lies:
This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor.
…corporations, wealthy interests and politicians have manufactured Janus as part of their long and coordinated war against unions.
Their goal here, as it was in Friedrichs v. CTA, is no secret: they want to use the Supreme Court to take away the freedom of working people to join together in strong unions.
These quotes and many others like it, lead the reader to assume that evil rich corporate cabalists have banded together to outlaw labor unions. Of course, the case is simply about giving workers a choice whether or not to join a union as a condition of employment. Period. But as with any totalitarian entity, honesty is a virtue that is shoved aside when its agenda is endangered.
At points, the bilge can be almost comical.
George Leef, Director of research at the Martin Center, wrote recently about a lawsuit in West Virginia, where the AFL-CIO desperately tried to overturn the state’s new right-to-work law. The union whined in court that making it voluntary to join would do them irreparable harm and should be stayed pending a challenge to its constitutionality. After finding a friendly lower court judge who was sympathetic to that audacious argument, the state’s Supreme Court overruled her decision.
Can you imagine a bank robber claiming to a judge that he’d undergo irreparable harm if he couldn’t keep the money he had forcibly obtained in a heist?
Not comical, however, is one union’s action, which shows the desperate lengths they will go to keep their bottom line healthy. The Center for the American Experiment has unearthed a disgraceful move by Education Minnesota, the National Education Association affiliate in the Gopher State. Anticipating an unfavorable Janus decision, the union has come up with a new form which includes the following wording:
I agree to submit dues to Education Minnesota and hereby request and voluntarily authorize my employer to deduct from my wages an amount equal to the regular monthly dues uniformly applicable to members of Education Minnesota or monthly service fee, and further that such amount so deducted be sent to such local union for and on my behalf. This authorization shall remain in effect and shall be automatically renewed from year to year, irrespective of my membership in the union, unless I revoke it by submitting written notice to both my employer and the local union during the seven-day period that begins on September 24 and ends on September 30. (Emphasis added.)
In other words, saying, “Good-by, sayonara, no thanks” to the union once isn’t good enough. You have to do it every year and within a very narrow time frame. Can you imagine a woman who finally gets a divorce after being stuck for years in an unhappy marriage, being told “Okay, but you have to notify the court every year that you want to stay divorced. And if you miss the seven day opt-out period, you’re stuck with the SOB for another year.”
The teachers unions are in trouble and they know it. A recent Education Next poll reveals that teachers are more likely to oppose forced dues than to support them, by a 47 – 44 percent margin. What we don’t know is how many will stop paying the union if given a choice.
Nationally, the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that just 10.7 percent of all U.S. workers are unionized, with government workers being over represented; 34 percent of all teachers are unionized.
Should Mark Janus be successful in freeing himself from forced dues payments, that 34 percent could shrink considerably, in spite of the union lies and flimflam that will undoubtedly escalate.
Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.