Category Archives: Future of Unions

The Demise of Fair Share Fees: ‘Janus’ and Its Impact

Source: Adam Santucci and Langdon Ramsburg, Legal Intelligencer, August 2, 2018
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Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, which may ultimately prove to alter the landscape of public sector labor relations and undermine the political clout of public sector labor unions throughout the United States.

Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, which may ultimately prove to alter the landscape of public sector labor relations and undermine the political clout of public sector labor unions throughout the United States. The court’s holding in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, 138 S. Ct. 2448 (2018), was clear: requiring public sector employees to pay “fair share fees” (sometimes referred to as “agency fees”) violates the First Amendment.

The road to Janus was long and took some interesting twists and turns. To fully understand Janus and its impact, it is necessary to start at the beginning—the court’s 1977 holding in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977).

Viewpoint: Boss Can’t Be Janus Fix

Source: Chris Brooks, Labor Notes, July 25, 2018

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Janus decision, a new approach to financing unions called “direct reimbursement” is gaining traction with Democratic politicians, academics, and even the New York Times editorial board.

It boils down to this: rather than public sector workers paying dues, their government employer would pay an equivalent amount directly to the union.

Proponents claim this approach will neutralize the impact of the Janus decision and shore up union budgets.

The idea has legs. New York’s most senior Democratic Assemblyman Richard Gottfried is sponsoring a bill to allow public sector unions to negotiate this scheme into their contracts. Hawaii is entertaining a version too.

Backed into a corner and fearful for the future, some unions might jump at this quick fix. It’s a big mistake.

Behind The Campaign To Get Teachers To Leave Their Unions

Source: Anya Kamenetz, NPR, July 19, 2018

….Last month, the Supreme Court in Janus v. AFCSME dealt a major blow to public sector unions. The court ruled that these unions cannot collect money, known as agency fees, from nonmembers who are covered by collective bargaining agreements.

Organizations on both sides across the country sprang into action.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, based in Michigan, is running My Pay, My Say as a national campaign. The Freedom Foundation, with headquarters in Washington state, is targeting teachers in Oregon, Washington and California with the slogan, Opt Out Today.

Other groups targeting teachers and public employees in specific states include: the Commonwealth Foundation, the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, the Center of the American Experiment, the Center for Union Facts and Americans for Prosperity.

The outreach tactics include paper mail, phone calls, emails, hotlines, Facebook ads, billboards, TV advertising and even door-to-door canvassing. Organizations are using publicly available email addresses to reach their targets, as well as purchasing mailing lists. ….

…. The groups behind the opt-out campaign, which describe themselves as conservative, libertarian or free-market, share many donors in common, such as the State Policy Network, the Donors’ Fund and DonorsTrust. Many of these groups have long opposed not only agency fees, but teachers unions in general, on the grounds that they inhibit education reforms such as vouchers and charter schools.

According to an analysis of tax filings by the website Conservative Transparency, the top contributors to the Mackinac Center specifically include the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation, and the DeVos Urban Leadership Initiative (formerly the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation). These are the family foundations of the U.S. education secretary, Betsy DeVos, and her husband’s parents. ….

Related:Trump Nominee Is Behind Anti-Union Legal Campaign
Source: Noam Scheiber, New York Times, July 18, 2018

Even before the Supreme Court struck down mandatory union fees for government workers last month, the next phase of the conservative legal campaign against public-sector unions was underway.

In March, with the decision looming, lawyers representing government workers in Washington State asked a federal court to order one of the state’s largest public-employee unions “to disgorge and refund” fees that nonmembers had already paid. Similar lawsuits were filed in California, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and Ohio. ….

….Beyond their legal claims, the cases share another striking detail: The lead counsel in each is a conservative lawyer named Jonathan F. Mitchell.

Mr. Mitchell, 41, has a formidable résumé. He was a Supreme Court clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia; worked at the Justice Department under President George W. Bush; taught at several law schools, including Stanford; and spent more than four years as the solicitor general of Texas.

After the 2016 election, he served as a volunteer attorney on the Trump transition team, where he helped review future executive orders. In September, the president nominated him to head the Administrative Conference of the United States, a small federal agency that advises the government on improving its inner workings. His nomination awaits action by the Senate after the Judiciary Committee approved him on a party-line vote in March…..

After Janus, How to Tilt the Balance of Power Back to Workers

Source: Jessica Stites and Aaron Tang, In These Times, August 2018
This is the first of a four-part series on rebuilding labor after the Supreme Court’s Janus ruling. The second part will debut online Tuesday. You can read all four pieces, as well as an exclusive interview with Bernie Sanders on the future of the labor movement, in the August issue of In These Times magazine.

There’s a simple fix to Janus’s “free-rider” problem. …

…. The labor and employment protections that do exist have been eroded for decades, often on the Democrats’ watch. But unions and workers weary of broken promises from corporate-captured legislators may find a glimmer of hope in the current rise of progressive Democrats. To those candidates and legislators looking for strong pro-labor proposals, we invited labor experts to offer four concrete policies to bolster workers’ rights. You can find the first proposal, by Aaron Tang, below, and the rest on InTheseTimes.com over the course of the week.

We offer these with one caveat: Legislative change won’t happen without a groundswell of worker action, rooted in the conviction that we do not shed our rights when we clock in to work. ….

Rebuilding Power in Open-Shop America: A Labor Notes Guide

Source: Labor Notes, July 2, 2018

….Janus is a serious blow—but we have good news. As plenty of unions in open-shop states and sectors can testify, it’s still possible to win campaigns and maintain high membership rates despite the legal hurdles. We talked to workers in schools, factories, buses, hospitals, oil refineries, grocery stores, post offices, and shipyards.

This guide reveals the principles and practical steps behind their successes. Here’s the punchline: the unions that build power in open-shop America will be the ones that fight hard on workplace issues their members care about, and where large numbers of rank-and-file members take on their own fights…..

Context
How We Got Here
Our Prescription
The Racist History of Right to Work
Who’s Next?
The Anti-Union Game Plan

Diagnostics
Exercise: The Open-Shop Stress Test
Quiz: Assess Your Danger Level
Jump-Starting a Weak Union from Below

Brass Tacks
1. Be Democratic
2. Fight the Boss
3. Turn Up the Heat
4. Ask People to Join
5. Count Noses
6. Don’t Go It Alone

How Corporations Plan To Use Janus To Turn Workers Against Their Own Unions

Source: Chris Brooks, In These Times, July 2, 2018

A union buster may be coming to your door.

…..SEIU 925 is the target of an “opt-out campaign,” a new anti-union initiative by the State Policy Network (SPN), the web of billionaire-backed right-wing groups that helped fund the Janus v. AFSCME lawsuit. The Washington-based Freedom Foundation is a star member.

SPN got the Supreme Court ruling it wanted in Janus, which nationalized right-to-work conditions across the public sector. All public sector workers now have the option of receiving union benefits without paying for them. If enough workers choose to stop paying dues, union budgets and power will be greatly diminished.

SPN is now building on the Janus victory with opt-out campaigns to contact government employees in union-dense states and encourage them to drop their membership. Their targets include blue states such as California, Illinois, New York, Oregon and Washington that have resisted passing anti-union legislation. The plan is simple: Gut unions of members and money so they have less influence on state elections. Once sympathetic politicians are in office, corporate interests can pass state laws to torch what remains of organized labor.

But unions have also spent months preparing for this moment…..

How Badly Did the Supreme Court Just Damage Public Sector Unions? Take a Look at Michigan.

Source: Jordan Weissman, Slate, June 27, 2018

….Estimates vary as to how drastically right-to-work policies ultimately reduce union membership, but the consensus at this point is that they’re a drag. Michigan offers a useful illustration, in part because it passed a right to work law in 2013, meaning enough time has passed to judge its initial effects, and because the state’s largest teachers union, the Michigan Education Association, files financial and membership information with the Department of Labor. (Many purely public sector unions don’t because they aren’t required to.) According to those documents, the union has lost 18 percent of its membership since the statute was passed. Dues and membership fees have declined, meanwhile, by 28 percent. The union hasn’t collapsed, but it is significantly reduced…..

….David Crim, a spokesman for the Michigan Education Association, told me that many teachers decided to leave the union even though they supported it, because dropping their membership and not paying dues was the only way they felt they could increase their incomes at a time when educators’ wages in Michigan have been stagnant. If true, that points to how right-to-work policies can create a vicious cycle for unions: Weakening organized labor makes it harder for public sector unions to organize and bargain for better pay, encouraging more teachers to drop their memberships for the sake of their own finances…..

Supreme Court Bans Mandatory Union Fees for Public-Sector Workers

Source: Lisa Nagele-Piazza, SHRM, June 27, 2018

In a closely watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 40 years of precedent by ruling that mandatory public-sector union dues are unconstitutional.

In a 5-4 vote on June 27, the justices held that states and public-sector unions may no longer require workers to pay agency fees. “Neither an agency fee nor any other payment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay,” Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote for the majority.

In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan said the decision will have large-scale consequences. “Public employee unions will lose a secure source of financial support. State and local governments that thought fair-share provisions furthered their interests will need to find new ways of managing their workforces,” she wrote…..

Related:
Decline in Union Membership Expected After High Court Ruling
Source: Lisa Nagele-Piazza, SHRM, June 28, 2018
Supreme Court held that mandatory public-sector union fees are unconstitutional

Right-Wing, Business-Funded Groups Are Preparing to Use the Janus Decision to Bleed Unions, Internal Documents Show

Source: Lee Fang, Nick Surgey, The Intercept, June 30, 2018

Just moments after the Janus vs. AFSCME ruling came down, several conservative think tanks launched campaigns to leverage the pivotal Supreme Court decision as a means of starving unions of funds and eventually disbanding them altogether. The effort is aimed at encouraging public-sector workers in 22 states to withhold minimum bargaining fees from their labor unions, a shift made possible by the Janus decision. As labor comes under attack, the advocacy groups will launch decertification campaigns to nullify certain unions in certain jurisdictions.

Withholding the funds and dismantling the unions could have profound effects on American politics — a feature, not a bug, of the conservative activism following Janus. Many public-sector unions and the activists who work with them are affiliated with the Democratic Party, and the organizing they carry out is dependent on the hundreds of millions of dollars they expect to collect in union fees in the coming years…..

Supreme Court Rules Against Public-Sector Unions

Source: Colleen Flaherty, Inside HigherEd, June 28, 2018

High court says public employees don’t have to pay regular agency fees to unions that represent them in collective bargaining and more, which could hurt faculty and staff unions.

Related:
Janus, Faced
Source: Matt Reed, Inside HigherEd, Confessions of a Community College Dean blog, June 27, 2018

The ruling on unions.
A friend in grad school once commented that she and I followed the Supreme Court the same way that normal people follow baseball. So yes, I’ve been mulling over the Janus v AFSCME case for months. Longer, in fact, if you count the version that didn’t get decided when Scalia died.

I’ve been working in unionized public higher education since 2003. At all three community colleges, and in both states, representation fees were part of the order of the day. I’ve known faculty who swear that the union is the only thing standing between them and penury, and I’ve known faculty who wanted absolutely nothing to do with their union. Having also worked in a decidedly non-union setting — DeVry — I’ve seen the differences. But here I’ll focus instead on possible long-term fallout. Assuming the ruling stands for a while, what’s likely to happen?

The obvious immediate impact will be that the folks who only pay representation fees because they’re compelled to, will stop. Anecdotally, I’d guess that this is a small, but non-zero, number. That will represent lost income for the union, and a short-term boost in take-home pay for those employees.
What happens next is less obvious.

Teachers’ activism will survive the Janus Supreme Court ruling
Source: Sherman Dorn, The Conversation, June 27, 2018

….As a scholar of the history of post-World War II education policy, I see this decision as an important landmark in the history of teachers unions. The Supreme Court ruling is a serious legal and financial blow, but it will not kill public employee unions, teachers unions – or the ability of teachers to work together to amplify their voices for social change….

Trump’s Supreme Court Strikes Blow to Government Workers, Good Paying Jobs
Source: Mary Bottari, Center for Media and Democracy, June 27, 2018

In a major blow to organized labor and good paying government jobs, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled today that government workers who choose not to join a union cannot be charged fees to reimburse the union for the cost of representing them in collective bargaining.

The decision was 5-4 in the Janus vs. AFSCME Council 31 case, with Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch supplying the deciding vote. Justice Samuel Alito, who actively invited a challenge to union fees, wrote the decision for the Court’s right-wing majority.

In today’s decision, Alito wrote that the fees, called “agency fees,” violated the First Amendment. In doing so, Alito overruled a 41-year-old Supreme Court decision legalizing these fees in the Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education decision.

The decision ushers in “right to work” style conditions for public employees in states across the nation. These anti-union measures originated in the Jim Crow South as a means of undermining unions who were organizing black and white workers together in the same shop. Predictably, Koch brothers groups–such as Americans for Prosperity, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the State Policy Network–cheered the ruling, while union leaders prepared to renegotiate thousands of contracts and deal with a new legal landscape for unions across the land.

Janus decision extends First Amendment ‘right of silence’
Source: Robert A. Sedler, The Conversation, June 27, 2018

The Supreme Court’s Janus ruling extends strong protection to the First Amendment ‘right of silence’ and continues their trend of expanding First Amendment rights, often at the behest of conservatives.