Janus Decision Is a Victory for Government Workers — and Likely Taxpayers

By Richard McCarty

By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in the Janus case that government workers cannot be forced to pay unions just to keep their jobs. This is a huge victory for public employees – and likely for taxpayers as well. Functionally, the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees decision is like passing a Right to Work law for government workers. From now on, unions will need to continually demonstrate their value to workers and will likely need to scale back their political involvement, or at least adjust their politics to be less partisan.

In its ruling, the Court recognized the freedom of speech rights of government workers. All public employees will now have the right to opt-out of paying unions to lobby for things the employees oppose. Previously, all federal workers, as well as state and local government workers covered by Right to Work laws, had this right; now the rights of state and local government employees who were not already covered by Right to Work laws have been affirmed as well.

Quoting the majority opinion by Justice Samuel Alito, “Compelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable violates that cardinal constitutional command, and in most contexts, any such effort would be universally condemned.”

After years of being neglected, union members are starting to see changes and may soon see even more as a result of this case. One of the changes that workers have already seen is that unions have developed a new sense of urgency toward reaching out to their members. Based on the record of Right to Work states, other changes that could occur include lower union dues and less extravagant compensation for public union bosses.

While this ruling is clearly a win for government workers, here is why it is also likely to be a win for taxpayers. Government unions are some of the biggest funders of liberal politicians who support high taxes and bigger government. With their massive war chests, public employee unions have wielded an inordinate amount of power in setting public policy. For example, they have successfully lobbied for overly-generous pensions that have strained the budgets of states and localities from coast to coast. As these unions see their membership shrink and are forced to focus on serving their members, some of whom are moderate or conservative, they are likely to alter their political spending habits. Furthermore, a 2017 study found that funding and support for Democrat candidates declined after the passage of Right to Work laws, and the Janus decision could have a similar effect.

Now that the Court has curbed the power of government unions, there are several further steps that the federal government, as well as local and state governments, should take to help restore the proper balance of power between public sector unions and taxpayers.

  • Governments should launch information campaigns to ensure that all public employees know they have the right to opt out of paying union dues or fees.
  • Governments should switch from an opt-out system to an opt-in system for paying union dues – the same system employees use to authorize payroll deductions for the United Way or insurance.
  • Governments should stop allowing their employees to conduct union business on government time. After all, public employees are hired to serve the public, not private labor organizations.

The Supreme Court has delivered an important victory for government workers, and the repercussions are likely to be beneficial to taxpayers. As unions are forced to pay attention to the wishes of their members and are likely forced to tighten their belts due to declining membership, there should be fewer resources available to push Big Government agendas. The federal, state, and local governments should take further action to shift power away from public sector unions and back toward the taxpayers that they are supposed to serve by running informational campaigns to ensure public employees know they can opt out of unions; by changing from a system that requires workers to opt-out of paying unions to one that requires union members to opt-in to pay dues; and by prohibiting government workers from working on union business on government time.

Richard McCarty is the Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

By Richard McCarty By a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court ruled in the Janus case that government workers cannot be forced to pay unions just to keep their jobs. This is a huge victory for public employees – and likely for taxpayers as well. Functionally, the Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal […]

On Janus, Some Cheer, Others Jeer at Supreme Court Decision

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court justices rules that public-sector workers could not be required to pay union “agency fees” as a condition of employment.

“The State’s extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment,” the Court’s majority ruled. “Forcing free and independent individuals to endorse ideas they find objectionable raises serious First Amendment concerns.”

Expectedly, labor unions and their allies on the Left are upset, calling the decision an “attack on working people.”

Mark Janus, the plaintiff in the case stated:

“I’m thrilled that the Supreme Court has restored not only my First Amendment rights, but the rights of millions of other government workers across the country. Across the country, so many of us have been forced to pay for political speech and policy positions with which we disagree, just so we can keep our jobs. This is a victory for all of us. The right to say ‘no’ to a union is just as important as the right to say ‘yes.’ Finally our rights have been restored.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus is a victory for the free speech of public employees everywhere, who will no longer be compelled to pay union dues should they choose not to,” stated Rick Manning, President of Americans for Limited Government. “Although this decision affected state and local public employees, the Trump administration should immediately remind federal employees of their liberty to opt out of union membership, providing them with the paperwork so that they can exercise their constitutional rights.”

For the full story, click here.

 

On Wednesday, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-awaited ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court justices rules that public-sector workers could not be required to pay union “agency fees” as a condition of employment. “The State’s extraction of agency fees from nonconsenting public-sector employees violates the First Amendment,” the […]

Janus Decision Likely to Good for Government Workers

For over a decade, Mark Janus has had to pay fees to a union to keep his job as a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Believing that he should not be forced to pay these fees to a union whose views he opposes, Janus filed a lawsuit against the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Council 31. In February, the Supreme Court heard arguments in the case, and the Court could issue its ruling any day now. The Janus decision is likely to upend the status quo in much of the country where public unions have been able to coast along forcing workers to pay agency fees without having to sell workers on the benefits of union membership.

What are agency fees? Agency fees are fees that non-union members are required to pay to unions to keep their jobs in some states. Agency fees are set by the union, and the cost of agency fees is typically between 80 percent and 90 percent of the cost of union dues. The purported reason for these agency fees is to prevent workers from benefitting from unions without contributing to them. Of course, unions are not obligated to represent all workers and could solely represent their members if they so choose.

The expected Janus decision would apply to state and local government workers in more than 20 states that currently allow unions to force nonmembers to pay agency fees. These states include some very liberal ones, such as California, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Washington, as well as some more moderate or even right-leaning ones, such as Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

This is not the first time that the Supreme Court has addressed the issue of agency fees. The expected ruling in the Janus case would overturn part of the precedent set by the Supreme Court’s 1977 decision in the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, which allowed unions to force nonmembers to pay agency fees. Just two years ago, the Supreme Court considered a similar case to Janus, the Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association case; but the Court deadlocked 4-4 after the death of Antonin Scalia.

If the court rules as expected, there will be a number of losers. AFSCME and other public employee unions, including the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers, and the Service Employees International Union, will lose both members and money. According to a study by the left-leaning Illinois Economic Policy Institute, the ruling could cost public sector unions 726,000 members. According to the California Labor Federation, the Janus decision could lead to membership decreases of 5 percent to 30 percent. Furthermore, Democrats, who receive so much support from these unions, are likely to see that support decline.

Bracing for a potential loss at the Supreme Court, unions have been making changes. They have cut budgets and stepped up efforts to engage with their members and fee payers. Unions have also lobbied for favorable legislation from friendly state governments. For example, union bosses managed to get legislation passed in California requiring new government employees to attend an orientation session with union officials.

The bottom line is that the Janus decision is expected to be good for state and local government workers: those public employees who do not currently have the right to opt out of paying agency fees to a union that they oppose will likely be given that right. As a result, some of these workers will stop paying these fees, and some current union members will quit their unions. With a decrease in funding, these unions are likely to spend less on politics. Finally, public employee unions will likely focus more attention on communicating with members and representing them after years of taking their members for granted.

For over a decade, Mark Janus has had to pay fees to a union to keep his job as a child support specialist at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. Believing that he should not be forced to pay these fees to a union whose views he opposes, Janus filed a lawsuit against […]

How to Empower the Labor Department Office That Fights Union Corruption

For too long, many union members have been kept in the dark about their union’s finances. Some unions are run in a transparent, democratic manner, but many others are run autocratically with minimal transparency and accountability.

This lack of transparency too often allows unscrupulous union officials to embezzle or misuse union funds; and each year, the federal government prosecutes scores of these officials for their crimes.

Afraid of what it might find if it looked too closely at union ledgers, the Obama administration willfully neglected the Department of Labor’s Office of Labor-Management Standards, which fights union corruption and helps to ensure that union elections are free and fair. Congress should address the agency’s lack of resources as soon as possible, and the Trump administration should make a series of changes at the agency to promote union transparency.

With a budget of less than $38 million—and $10 million less than it was a decade ago—and a staff of less than 200 full-time employees or equivalents, the Office of Labor-Management Standards simply does not have sufficient resources to match its huge task of protecting the billions of dollars in assets collectively owned by millions of union members.

Once inflation is factored in, the situation is obviously worse. Just to bring the agency’s budget back to parity with the fiscal year 2007 budget level, funding would have to be increased to more than $59 million, which is significantly more than the $46.6 million the administration requested for fiscal year 2019.

It might sound odd for the Americans for Limited Government Foundation to advocate more funding for a government agency, but there are several good reasons to do so.

First, law enforcement is a core function of government. Second, the Obama administration’s neglect of the office had a dramatic effect—the number of union audits, investigations, indictments, and convictions all declined.

Third, the increased funding easily could be offset by reducing funding for the bloated Wage and Hour Division and trimming funding for Labor Department giveaway programs; and staffers who were transferred to the Wage and Hour Division could be returned to the agency, which would save on training costs.

Read more here.

For too long, many union members have been kept in the dark about their union’s finances. Some unions are run in a transparent, democratic manner, but many others are run autocratically with minimal transparency and accountability. This lack of transparency too often allows unscrupulous union officials to embezzle or misuse union funds; and each year, […]

SEIU Forces Itself on Workers

SEIU forced itself onto workers at a New York hospital, who had opposed unionization. In a backroom deal, Northwell Health agreed to unionize the workers without even holding a vote, and SEIU even started grabbing money from the paychecks of the workers.

Unfortunately for SEIU, an assistant physical therapist, Kathleen Flanagan, filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB).

Flanagan was pushed into early retirement as a result of the backroom agreement between company and union officials to impose unionization on her department. If she had remained an employee, she would have been required to accept union representation, pay union fees, and accept a reduction in benefits.

At a mandatory union orientation, a SEIU 1199 union official unlawfully told the workers they were required to join the union, and therefore pay full union dues…

 

Facing the prospect of paying union fees for worse benefits, it’s no surprise that Flanagan didn’t support the union. Why would anyone agree to pay union dues or fees for worse benefits?

Flanagan filed her NLRB complaint with assistance from the National Right to Work Foundation. To settle her complaint, the company agreed to stop recognizing the union as the workers’ representative, and SEIU will have to refund the dues money that it did collect. In the future, maybe SEIU should spend more time finding ways to help its members and less time scheming to try to force people to join and pay dues.

 

SEIU forced itself onto workers at a New York hospital, who had opposed unionization. In a backroom deal, Northwell Health agreed to unionize the workers without even holding a vote, and SEIU even started grabbing money from the paychecks of the workers. Unfortunately for SEIU, an assistant physical therapist, Kathleen Flanagan, filed an unfair labor practice complaint with […]

Defending Bad Behavior

Project Veritas has caught a teachers union official claiming the union helped a teacher avoid punishment for having sex with a student. Furthermore, the official was more than willing to help a fictitious teacher who had hit a child.

Project Veritas has released undercover footage of Union City Education Association President, Kathleen Valencia, explaining that the union has helped a teacher who allegedly had sex with a teenage girl keep their job, and would do the same for a teacher who physically abused student…

When the Project Veritas undercover journalist asks if unions normally help teachers who abuse students, [Union City Education Association President Kathleen] Valencia says, “it happens, yes it does!”

Valencia then details the steps the union will take to make sure the [fictitious] teacher who abused a student in school keeps his job:

“I’m going to get your brother a lawyer. Your brother’s not going to admit anything happened. The only witness is the scumbag kid… he’s got a record.

When pressed about what the teacher should do to protect his job, Valencia says “keep [the teacher’s] mouth shut,” and adds plottingly, “nothing happened.”

If a teachers union is willing to defend scandalous behavior, what is SEIU willing to defend?

Project Veritas has caught a teachers union official claiming the union helped a teacher avoid punishment for having sex with a student. Furthermore, the official was more than willing to help a fictitious teacher who had hit a child. Project Veritas has released undercover footage of Union City Education Association President, Kathleen Valencia, explaining that […]

Is SEIU Serious about Sexual Harassment?

Tyrék D. Lee Sr., an SEIU official from Massachusetts, was accused of sexually harassing female coworkers and subordinates. It was alleged that he rubbed women’s arms, shoulders, and backs, sent women lewd emails and text messages, and exposed himself and urinated in public in front of female coworkers. Lee’s offensive behavior continued over the course of several years.

The people [with knowledge of the allegations], who spoke with the Globe on the condition of anonymity, said Lee pursued sexual relationships with female co-workers by employing behavior that went beyond typical flirting; in text and e-mail messages, he sometimes used vulgar language about sexual acts he wanted to perform with them. They said Lee’s pursuit of colleagues included women who were younger and subordinate to him, putting the women in the difficult position of dating — or rejecting — a superior.

In addition to interviews, the Globe reviewed notes, e-mails, and other records included in the investigation into Lee’s behavior…

At work, Lee openly talked about women’s appearances, commenting on how he liked their hair or how “hot” their bodies were, the people said.

Rather than firing Lee, he’s been reassigned; and SEIU only took this limited action after the Boston Globe wrote about the scandal.

Furthermore, the response of some other SEIU employees to the scandal has also been disturbing. While the union tried to figure out what to do with Lee, an SEIU staffer referred to #metoo activists as “WHORES” in a Facebook post. That post was liked by another SEIU official.

Shortly after the Boston Globe published an article outlining allegations against Lee, SEIU1199 Massachusetts staffer Teia Searcy posted on Facebook  that “the whole #metoo s**t GOT the WHORES coming out” and added an emoji featuring a hand with a middle finger raised and the hashtag #karmaisab***h.

The post describing #metoo activists was liked on facebook by Senior Vice President for SEIU1199 United Healthcare Workers East Veronica Turner. Turner previously held Lee’s job before promoting him to Executive Director when she was promoted to Senior VP for the multistate SEIU1199 United Healthcare Workers East.

 

Tyrék D. Lee Sr., an SEIU official from Massachusetts, was accused of sexually harassing female coworkers and subordinates. It was alleged that he rubbed women’s arms, shoulders, and backs, sent women lewd emails and text messages, and exposed himself and urinated in public in front of female coworkers. Lee’s offensive behavior continued over the course of […]

SEIU Giving Up on Fight for $15?

Several years ago, SEIU started its Fight for $15 (and a union) Astroturf campaign. As one of the former leaders of the campaign admitted, not a lot of research or thought went into setting the $15 minimum wage goal. The campaign has targeted Walmart, McDonalds, and Burger King. But after spending tens of millions of dollars of its members’ money, SEIU still hasn’t unionized any of those companies. Now, it appears that SEIU is cutting funding for the project.

Of course, this news follows on the heels of the sexual harassment scandal that rocked SEIU and the Fight for $15 campaign. That scandal led to the resignation or firing of Scott Courtney, an SEIU vice president; Kendall Fells, the national organizing director of the Fight for $15; Caleb Jennings, the leader of the Chicago Fight for $15 chapter; and Mark Raleigh, the leader of the Detroit Fight for $15 chapter.

One wonders what SEIU’s next scheme will be to spend millions of dollars that it’s collected from the paychecks of janitors, window cleaners, bus drivers, etc.

Several years ago, SEIU started its Fight for $15 (and a union) Astroturf campaign. As one of the former leaders of the campaign admitted, not a lot of research or thought went into setting the $15 minimum wage goal. The campaign has targeted Walmart, McDonalds, and Burger King. But after spending tens of millions of […]

SEIU Loses Long-Running Fight

For three years, SEIU tried to unionize the University of Minnesota. After countless meetings and an unsuccessful legal battle, that effort has now failed. The faculty group pushing for unionization announced last month that it had decided to cut its ties to SEIU. While SEIU failed in its campaign, it did succeed in generating quite a bit of opposition — over 500 university employees signed a letter from Faculty Excellence, a group opposing SEIU’s effort.

Maybe college professors are finally waking up to the fact that SEIU is a top-down organization with huge locals that are unaccountable to their members.

Some were skeptical that Minnesota’s SEIU — which represents about 58,300 Minnesota and Wisconsin workers in industries including manufacturing and health care — could adequately represent faculty, partly because of its limited experience with higher education.

“Why bring in people who actually don’t know how the university is running?” said chemistry professor Philippe Buhlmann. “I was worried that we would actually make things worse by adding to an existing administration . and make things even slower than they are.”

For three years, SEIU tried to unionize the University of Minnesota. After countless meetings and an unsuccessful legal battle, that effort has now failed. The faculty group pushing for unionization announced last month that it had decided to cut its ties to SEIU. While SEIU failed in its campaign, it did succeed in generating quite a […]

Living in the Lap of Luxury

According to a report it filed with the US Department of Labor, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent over $2.3 million at 4- to 5-star hotels around the world in 2016. (Data for 2017 is not yet available.) With so many of SEIU’s members working low-paying jobs as janitors and health care workers, it seems unlikely that many of SEIU’s members regularly travel in such luxury.

Below are some of the amenities available at several of these fine hotels.

  • SEIU spent nearly $50,000 at the 5-star Regis Washington DC, which is one of the nicest hotels in the city. The hotel is located near the White House; its lobby features crystal chandeliers, marble floors, and a baby grand piano. Most evenings, the hotel conducts a ceremony opening a champagne bottle with a saber and then distributes complimentary glasses of champagne.
  • SEIU spent over $18,000 at the 5-star InterContinental Hong Kong. The hotel has stunning views of the city’s harbor. In 2016, the hotel had one fancy restaurant that was Michelin-rated; now it has two. Each hotel room includes a loaner smart phone that guests can use to make unlimited local or international calls. The phone also offers unlimited data and functions as a hotspot.
  • SEIU spent over $8,000 at the 5-star Park Hyatt Chicago, the “flagship Park Hyatt hotel.” The hotel has beautiful views of downtown Chicago and Lake Michigan. Rooms in this hotel have remote control blinds, iPads, espresso machines, bathrobes, slippers, and televisions in the bathrooms.
  • SEIU spent over $5,000 at the 5-star Westin New York at Times Square. Guests staying at this hotel who forgot their workout clothes can borrow pants or shorts, a shirt, socks, and tennis shoes for just a few dollars. Room service, on the other hand, is much more expensive: the room service menu offers a cheeseburger for $26, yogurt for $12, pancakes for $22, a muffin for $14, and an ice cream sandwich for $14. If none of the room service options suit guests’ appetites, they can order a chicken pot pie for $29 in the hotel’s bar.
  • SEIU spent over $70,000 at the 5-star MGM Grand Detroit, one of the nicest hotels there. The hotel has a casino, a spa, an indoor pool, and Wolfgang Puck Steak, which received a 4-star rating from the Forbes Travel Guide. This rating makes the steakhouse the highest-rated restaurant in the state, according to Forbes.
  • SEIU spent over $27,000 at the 5-star MotorCity Casino Hotel in Detroit, also one of the nicest hotels in Detroit. Guests can use the hotel’s spa and its pillow library and dine at the hotel’s AAA Four Diamond Award-winning restaurant, Iridescence. Iridescence is one of only five restaurants in the state receiving this award. At Iridescence, the menu includes caviar for $125 and a 6-ounce Japanese steak for $120.
  • SEIU spent over $5,000 at the 5-star Taj Boston, which was previously a Ritz-Carlton. The hotel is noted for its “vast array of museum-worthy artwork.” The hotel’s restaurant, The Café, received the AAA Four Diamond Award; it is one only twelve restaurants in the state receiving this award. The hotel is located on the same block as Burberry, Brooks Brother’s, and Armani, and is across the street from Boston Commons. A Tiffany & Co. boutique can be accessed from the hotel’s lobby. The hotel offers guests a pillow menu, a bath menu, a bath butler, and complimentary shoeshines. A seasonal fireplace butler is available to assist guests staying in the hotel’s fireplace suites.

It’s a little hard to believe that SEIU had to spend over $2 million of its members’ money at fancy, swanky hotels in just one year. Surely, there were other less costly lodging options that SEIU could have chosen if SEIU’s bosses wanted to conserve their members’ funds. But because SIEU chose to spend its members’ money in this fashion, SEIU members are due an explanation as to who is traveling in luxury at their expense and why.

 

According to a report it filed with the US Department of Labor, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) spent over $2.3 million at 4- to 5-star hotels around the world in 2016. (Data for 2017 is not yet available.) With so many of SEIU’s members working low-paying jobs as janitors and health care workers, it […]