Landmark Labor Ruling Helped but Still Needs to be Enforced More Aggressively – Opinion

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The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) — issued four years ago last week — inflicted a mortal wound on America’s public-sector unions.

But wounded isn’t dead.

On paper, the June 27, 2018, decision recognized that the 23 states in which government employees were compelled to either join a union as a dues-paying member or subsidize its activities through agency fees were violating the workers’ First Amendment rights to free speech and association.

This would have allowed hundreds of thousands of workers to leave their union membership overnight. But like a tanker ship in mid-ocean, the public-sector union leviathan couldn’t be turned on a dime.

Instead of simply adhering to the clear intent and wording in, JanusAFSCME and Service Employees International Union, (SEIU), Brotherhood of Teamsters, National Education Association, (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT), all reacted to this ruling by doubling their bullying tactics.

The union leaders insisted on denial even before the ink had dried. Their newly-affirmed opt-out rights were not communicated to members. They often claimed nothing had happened when workers confronted them.

The country’s only private enterprise would be able to do something this bold, and the fact that the government has enforced the monopoly for fifty years is a clear sign of entitlement.

The unions embraced a policy of challenging every single opt-out request by ignoring them outright, using their vast resources to battle under-funded defectors in court, and, when all else failed, brazenly forging the employee’s signature on a membership agreement.

Only a few workers attempted to leave the country in spite of facing the terrifying prospect of fighting the unions.

One notable exception to this was the West Coast, where the Freedom Foundation (a non-profit) made an agreement to help government workers overcome union hurdles.

This was possible because:

  •  mobilizing an army of paid canvassers, who have visited tens of thousands of public employees in their homes and workplaces to inform them of their constitutional rights;
  • creating a full range of marketing materials — including direct mail and email pieces, news releases and op-ed submissions, radio and television appearances, videos, and social media content — designed to tell government workers what their union won’t;
  • Establishing a network of outreach across the country to support employees in obtaining their freedom.
  • Free legal representation for workers when required

Opt-out rates were found to be much higher in states where there was an active effort to cut through the union noise, suggesting that many — perhaps most — government employees bear their union no great love.

Unfortunately, laws are only as good and effective as their enthusiasm. This is also true for the track record. JanusIt still has a lot to do.

The four years since the ruling was issued have largely been distinguished by a series of lower court decisions that use pretzel-twisted logic to excuse unions’ blatant defiance of the clearly worded ruling and — so far, at least — the frustrating reluctance of SCOTUS to defend its own handiwork in several important follow-up lawsuits.

But with a number of intriguing cases still in the pipeline, it’s only a matter of time before JanusGets the reinforcement you need.

Ultimately, keeping score is complicated by many factors, including varying reporting standards in different states and the unions’ penchant for fudging numbers. The Freedom Foundation, though, has assisted more than 117,000 government workers to get out of union bondsage.

The average member pays $900 in lost dues. This amounts to $105 million annually that the unions cannot spend on their radical liberal agenda.

The Freedom Foundation was established in Washington in 1991. Since then, Washington’s state employees have seen their membership in AFSCME 28 and SEIU Healthcare 1199 drop by over a third. In neighboring Oregon, the rate of state workers paying dues or fees to SEIU 503 — the state’s largest union — declined by 37 percent, while AFSCME Council 75’s membership rate declined from 100 to 74 percent since 2018.

The opt-out result is summarized as follows: JanusThese have both been encouraging and disappointing. While it’s gratifying that so many have won their freedom in the face of the unions’ unrelenting opposition, there remains much work to do.

Unionized government workers are eager to opt out once they learn they can — and that someone has their back.

But it doesn’t happen by itself. It takes effort.

Aaron Withe, CEO of Freedom Foundation. www.FreedomFoundation.com

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