In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 Janus decision last June, which barred public-sector unions from forcibly exacting dues from nonmembers, various states have gotten creative in circumventing the ruling. Oregon is emerging as a leader. Early in the year, a state lawmaker, acting on a request by a school employees union, introduced House Bill 2643, authorizing the establishment of a special fund from which public employers would collect dues and then pass them along to unions. A dissenting worker would have no way to opt out. Aside from showing contempt for worker liberty, the measure runs contrary to the law. The bill for now is in committee, but given the Democratic Party (i.e., pro-union) majority in both legislative houses, passage is a distinct possibility.
The Supreme Court’s Janus decision four months ago, which overturned the authority of public-sector unions to force nonmember employees under contract to pay dues or risk losing their jobs, has taken some unexpected turns. Indeed, barely after the ruling, a Columbus, Ohio-based nonprofit group, the Buckeye Institute, filed separate suits on behalf of a high school teacher in Ohio and a college professor in Minnesota challenging the authority of their respective unions to bargain exclusively. In effect, the plaintiffs seek to be freed from representation they never requested in the first place. “These capable public servants have the right to speak for themselves and should be released from forced association with unions and advocacy with which they disagree,” said Institute President Robert Alt. The unions have a different view.
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision in Janus v. AFSCME was a stunning blow to over 40 years of public-sector union monopoly power. Union leaders for their part are pushing back. They have plenty of allies in state governments, and perhaps no state is as vociferous as New York. Indeed, on June 27, the day of the ruling, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order to protect union members from outside intimidation – ironic, given the pressure unions often use to collect dues. The State of New York also has begun deducting dues from the pay of government workers without even checking to see if they are members. And now a prominent lawmaker wants taxpayers to reimburse unions for foregone dues.