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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

We May Finally See the End of Compulsory Union Dues

No wonder the union spin machine is already working overtime.

By the end of next month, public-sector employee unions will be up to their eyeballs in the orgy of obfuscation sure to accompany the U.S. Supreme Court’s consideration of a case that could once and for all strip organized labor of its power to skim dollars from the paychecks of virtually every government worker in the state.

The Case as It Stands

And at the end of the day, the torrent of words will distill down to two basic propositions. Either the union leaders:

  • honestly believe they know better than the workers themselves what’s in their best interests; or
  • couldn’t care less about what’s best for the workers, and this whole exercise is nothing more than a brazen attempt to preserve the monopoly over the public labor supply unions bought and paid for generations ago with someone else’s money.

The plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME argue that being forced to financially support a union’s ideals amounts to suppression of their First Amendment rights, and no one should have to check their right to free speech at the door as a condition of employment in the government.

The unions counter that wages in states that lack so-called “right-to-work” legislation tend to be higher than in those that do. But that reasoning assumes all the other economic variables in California and, say, Mississippi are otherwise comparable and right-to-work is the only possible explanation for the cost-of-living disparity.

They’re admitting the service they provide isn’t valued by enough workers to make it economically viable. The Realities of Compulsion

Moreover, it falsely assumes the average taxpayer considers it his or her patriotic duty to overpay for a commodity — in this case, labor — that can be obtained cheaper elsewhere. It’s a good deal for the handful of union workers who benefit from artificially inflated wages, but it’s no great honor for the rest of us — whose paychecks are typically the product of actual market forces rather than union coercion and collusion — to overcompensate a politically well-connected special interest.

What the unions never get around to telling you is that absolutely nothing in right-to-work legislation or the Janus ruling would compel workers to leave their union or prevent new recruits from joining. It simply leaves the choice to the individual, as it should be.

When unions demand mandatory dues and fees, they’re tacitly admitting the service they provide in return isn’t valued by enough workers to make it economically viable. Likewise, when they insist government employee wages would plummet in the absence of a union, they’re simply confirming the workers are already earning more than their labors are actually worth on the open market.

These are the kinds of hard economic truths that will be exposed when Janus is finally heard next month and the injustices that will be righted if the court this summer votes to ban mandatory dues and fees in the public sector.

No wonder the union spin machine is already working overtime.

  • Jeff Rhodes is the managing editor for the Freedom Foundation, a Pacific Northwest-based free-market think tank whose legal team has submitted two amicus briefs in support of the plaintiffs in Janus v. AFSCME.