September 11, 2018 — Despite the landmark Supreme Court ruling this summer barring public-sector unions from requiring nonmembers to pay so-called agency fees, workers in several states say unions are either flat-out ignoring the decision or establishing a frustrating maze of procedural roadblocks to avoid compliance.
The June decision in Janus v. AFSCME sent shockwaves through organized labor in the U.S., holding not only that public unions violated the First Amendment by taking money out of unwilling workers’ paychecks to fund collective bargaining, but also that employees must “clearly and affirmatively consent” before any fees or dues are collected.
Janus could end up costing unions hundreds of millions of dollars in California alone, where workers who filed an earlier suit say the case should apply retroactively, alleging that the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) retained members not through their “clear” consent, but through convoluted and difficult “opt-out” procedures. The nation’s largest union, the 3-million-member National Education Association, announced plans to cut nearly $40M from its budget after Janus, amid fears it would lose hundreds of thousands of members.
Faced with those challenges, workers’ rights advocates say some unions and state governments have decided to effectively defy the Supreme Court.
“We’re seeing huge problems across the country,” Diana Rickert, the vice president of the Liberty Justice Center, which represented the plaintiff in the Janus case before the Supreme Court, told Fox News. “There is almost no government in America that is fully complying with the Janus ruling.”
She said this includes unions not seeking “clear” consent with members as prescribed by Janus, or even using intimidation tactics to keep members on the rolls.
While the Liberty Justice Center has sent cease-and-desist letters to 11 states, from Ohio to New York, demanding that state officials comply with Janus, Rickert said litigation will be necessary in some instances to force states to follow the law.
“What we’re up against is a national manipulation campaign led by government unions who want to stand in the way of workers exercising their rights,” Rickert said. “Government union officials across the country are trying to scare and intimidate people into maintaining membership by making threats – they say things like, ‘Your salary will go down if you leave the union’ or ‘You’ll lose your benefits.'”