If you’re a conservative (or even a moderate) working for the government, the Left doesn’t want you in its restaurants, but it most certainly wants you in its unions. And it insists. And many states back that demand with the force of law. So while you cannot be forced to actually join a public-sector union, many states require you to pay dues. Thus, public-sector unions have operated much like the Hotel California: you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. Or, at least, your money can’t.
And what do these unions offer in return for your forced contributions? A constant threat to essential services: “a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.” Thus, collective bargaining “cannot be transplanted into the public service.”
Those were President Franklin Roosevelt’s words, spoken during the days when Democrats cared about working-class men having jobs rather than mentally ill men having access to women’s restrooms. The modern Democratic Party stands as a repudiation of FDR’s wisdom concerning public-sector unions. Indeed, it would be hobbled without them. Literally 99% of political contributions by public-sector unions go to Democrats and/or leftwing interest groups. This had been the state of affairs for decades.
All that changed a few hours ago.
The U.S. Supreme Court just issued its long awaited decision in Janus v. AFSCME, holding that public-sector unions can no longer force government workers to pay dues. I say long-awaited, because SCOTUS was poised to issue a similar ruling in another case two years ago. Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, however, resulted in a 4-4 tie, thereby affirming the Ninth Circuit’s ruling against the employee in that case.
Justice Neil Gorsuch provided the fifth vote in Janus, a case in which SCOTUS considered whether state legislators could force government workers to pay dues to public-sector unions, who then use those funds to lobby state legislators to hire more government workers and provide all of them with ever higher wages and benefits. This cycle has repeated itself for decades, resulting in the budget-crushing crisis that public-employee pensions have already wrought on some local governments, with many more soon to follow.
The main argument for forcing all government employees to pay union dues is that failing to so do would facilitate “free riders,” i.e., those enjoying the benefits provided by unions without paying for them. But what, exactly, are the “benefits” of membership in a leftwing union to an employee who doesn’t share its beliefs? As the Supreme Court noted, the employee suing the union “strenuously objects to this free-rider label. He argues that he is not a free rider on a bus headed for a destination that he wishes to reach but is more like a person shanghaied for an unwanted voyage.”
Quoting Thomas Jefferson, the Supreme Court held that “to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves and abhor[s] is sinful and tyrannical.” It therefore concluded that forcing all government employees to pay dues “violates the free speech rights of nonmembers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
Wisconsin offers a glimpse at what’s ahead for public-sector unions throughout the nation. In 2010, Governor Scott Walker signed a law allowing state workers to bail out of unions and withhold dues from them. Which many did. Thus, as noted by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the share of Wisconsin’s workforce represented by unions has cratered. It was 17.6% in 2000. Now, it’s only 8.3%. This compares to a much smaller decline in the nation as a whole: from 13.5% to 11.1%.
The Supreme Court’s fidelity to the First Amendment will now enable all government workers (along with their money) to escape from leftwing public-sector unions. So we can now look forward to union membership numbers collapsing nationwide as they’ve done in Wisconsin.
This is devastating news for Democrats. It’s also bad news for fake Republicans, like Montana’s Attorney General, who pander to public-sector unions.
Of course, nothing in the Janus decision will halt the Democratic Party’s slouch towards socialism, sexual perversion, religious bigotry, hatred of Israel, and politically motivated violence. But at least government employees can’t be forced any longer to help finance that slouch.