This week, we’ve been examining common myths government unions don’t want you to question. We’ve already shot down two–Fact #1: Teachers feel a lot of pressure to join a union, and Fact #2: Dues are used for politics. Today we look at Fact #3: that the 2018 landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME, shored up individual workers’ First Amendment rights. The case overturned over 40 years of precedent when justices ruled that government workers who were not union members would no longer be required to pay labor unions “fair share fees” just to keep their jobs.
Government unions, including the NEA and AFT, have been afraid of what losing millions of fee payers will do to their coffers. The PSEA, for example, reported in their latest financial statement (covering Sept. 1, 2017 to Aug. 31, 2018) that the union had 6,704 fee payers. If each of those educators worked in public schools and paid the maximum fee amount of $468, that would represent a loss of some $3.1 million for the union post-Janus. But that’s only if you believe in picking the pockets of Pennsylvania teachers who never wanted to join the union in the first place.
Unions becoming weaker or stronger has nothing to do with Janus. A union is at its strongest when it fulfills its true purpose: supporting and advocating for its members. Yet thousands of union members across the country have come forward with stories (and even lawsuits) about how the big state and national unions take their money with no clear benefit, won’t communicate or respond to their needs, and flat-out exploit them for power and influence. Just this week, Pennsylvania state workers from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU Local 668) filed a class action lawsuit against the social services union challenging its practice of allowing employees to resign only during specified exit windows.
The Janus case itself was brought by Mark Janus, an Illinois child support specialist who was mistreated by the powerful union AFSCME. Thanks to his victory in court, unions have the opportunity to become stronger than ever: by actually earning the loyalty of government workers who may now freely choose membership, and by genuinely winning new members. If public sector unions are willing to demonstrate their value, there’s no reason they shouldn’t thrive in a post-Janus environment.