Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus vs. AFSCME (the public sector union the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees) that public employee unions may not collect dues, or “agency fees”, from employees who choose not to join the union. The ruling was narrow, restricted to free speech issues. Subscript Law reports:
Mark Janus works for the state of Illinois. He had been paying $45/month to a labor union, despite that he was not a member of the union. In fact, he is politically opposed to labor unions, and he did not want to pay.
Janus brought this suit arguing that the state cannot impose union fees on him. He said the First Amendment protects him from supporting a view he does not agree with. Money is support, and he does not want to support the union.
Analysis has been slanted. For example, Vox “reports”:
Pro-union advocates have argued that under “right-to-work” laws, nonunion members are reaping the benefits of progress that unions achieve without paying anything in return, resulting in lower membership rates and less influence, Vox’s Dylan Matthews wrote. Meanwhile, anti-union advocates argued that required agency fees violate First Amendment rights by forcing workers to support a political organization regardless of whether they support the cause. Agency fees are fees nonunion members have to pay to unions to cover the cost of collective bargaining.
Supporters of the ruling are not necessarily anti-union. I’m a private sector union member. And I don’t support so-called “right-to-work” laws. And no one can reasonably argue that unions, especially monopolistic public sector unions, are not political organizations, not just economic.
Charles Wowkanech, President of the New Jersey State AFL-CIO, argued in a New Jersey Star-Ledger guest column prior to the ruling:
At its core, this case is a direct attack on collective bargaining rights and undermines the ability of all workers to join together and negotiate with their employer for better wages, benefits and working conditions.
No, this is not a blow to collective bargaining rights. Such rights do not exist. As I argued in my Objective Standard article on the subject, there is no “‘right’ of the state to force employers to negotiate with unions,” which is what the Wagner Act does in the name of “collective bargaining rights.” In Illinois, the state with the law that Janus challenged,
Illinois law permits public employees to unionize. If a majority of the employees in a bargaining unit vote to be represented by a union, that union is designated as the exclusive representative of all the employees, even those who do not join. Only the union may engage in collective bargaining; individual employees may not be represented by another agent or negotiate directly with their employer. Nonmembers are required to pay what is generally called an “agency fee,” i.e., a percentage of the full union dues.
That’s from the ruling, and the emphasis is mine. So the coercion goes beyond dues-paying, and includes effectively forcing individuals into the union, even if she technically chooses not to join. The ruling eliminates the dues requirement, but still bars individuals from negotiating on her own behalf, i.e., she must abide by the union-employer contract.
Keep that in mind when you consider Wowkanech’s call for “unity” in the labor movement:
No matter the outcome of this case, working people have the power to set the course for the future. The formula is simple: When workers unite and come together in common purpose, we can achieve an economy that works for all.
Well, not working people forced into a union of “bargaining unit.”
Unity serves the common purpose only when everyone agrees voluntarily on that purpose. Unity enforced on “working people” by law is not “workers unite and come together in common purpose.” A group is made up of individuals. When some of those individuals are forced into “unity” they don’t agree with, it is not a “common purpose” that binds. It is not united we stand. It is unite and control by union elites. It is a chain gang.
Wowkanech concludes with a call “for working people to stand up for their rights.” That’s exactly what Janus did--and won. Yes, this issue is a matter of rights--the rights of employees and employers alike to voluntary contract, or not. Individual rights is the core principle of America.
End “Collective Bargaining Rights” and “Right-to-Work” Laws, my article in The Objective Standard