More Fallout from the Janus Decision

The recent Supreme Court Janus vs. AFSCME decision (5-4) prohibits the mandatory collect of agency fees by public sector unions. This is the equivalent of a political earthquake of 9.0 on the Richter scale, and the union movement knows it. They view agency fees as necessary for their survival, and their concern is that without them, public-sector unions could shrivel and take the broader union movement with them. 

The Janus decision will cut into public-sector union membership, which can only translate to a significant curtailment of donations to the Democratic Party. It will also cripple many left-wing activist groups who have heretofore relied on union money. Let's look at some of the ramifications flowing from the Janus decision in a little detail.

Public-sector Union Membership

The Janus decision is similar to the union reform that Gov. Scott Walker pushed through in 2010 in Wisconsin. In the wake of Act 10, which among other things allowed public sector employees to opt out of bargaining fees, the Wisconsin teachers union alone lost 60 percent of its members. This led to the decline in the state's overall union density as it fell from 14.1 percent in 2011 to 9 percent in 2016. This is significant. Recall that Donald Trump narrowly won Wisconsin's 10 electoral votes by 47.9 percent to Hillary Clinton's 46.9 percent. Lack of union money and volunteers certainly helped Trump

The National Education Association (NEA), the country's largest teachers union with over 3 million members, is forecasting the loss of 370,000 members over the next two years in the wake of Janus. The NEA also has 88,000 educators who are non-members who pay agency fees to the union. The NEA expects to lose many of these also. 

What with the decline of industrial unions, public-sector unions have been the mainstay of the labor movement. Without legal compulsion, public-sector union membership is sure to plummet from teachers to municipal and state workers. Many labor people thus fear that this could spell the end of unions as being the political force they have been in the past. And as the unions weaken, so does the Democrat Party.

Union Support for Democrats

Public-sector unions are not only a cash machine for the Democratic Party, they also provide volunteers and get-out-the-vote efforts at election time. All this will be hurt by falling union membership. Furthermore, union bosses will now have to devote more of their effort and money to stem their membership losses instead of spending it on electing Democrats who, depending on the candidate, some 30 to 40 percent of their members dislike. This will both reduce the amount of money donated to Democrats and even somewhat moderate the type of Democrat the union bosses dare support. 

Unions Support of Left-wing Activist Groups

Though not as well known as its support of the Democratic Party, public-sector unions are deep in providing money to left-wing activist groups. Even more so than the union money flowing to Democrats, this cash stream is in jeopardy due to Janus. From a union perspective, donating money to the Democratic Party brings tangible and often immediate results. Supporting radical activists who agitate for loose immigration enforcement, environmental radicalism, and the LGBT agenda is more of a luxury, a long-term union investment, if you will. The radical groups are icing on the union's cake and will be the first to go when the money tightens.

Conservative Activist Groups

The textbook definition of an activist is a person or group who campaigns to bring about political or social change. Fair enough. But the connotation today tends to be more restrictive. When speaking of an activist group, the implication is, at least at first blush, that it.s liberal or left-wing. This is not necessarily the case. There are numerous conservative activist groups, from think tanks to donor groups to business associations. 

Not content to let public-sector union membership quietly bleed out, conservative groups like the Mackinac Center in Michigan and the Buckeye Institute in Ohio anmong others are aggressively reaching out to workers, explaining to them how to opt out of their unions.  Here, conservative groups will also be following the path set by the Freedom Foundation in the states of Oregon and Washington by using robo-calls, door-to-door canvassing, and targeted advertising to encourage public-sector workers to break free of the unions if they so desire. 

The Clawback

This is one of the more delicious aspects of the Janus decision.  With the help and encouragement of conservative activist groups, a number of public-sector workers are now initiating class-action lawsuits to reclaim the past agency fees that workers were illegally forced to pay.  

In one such suit, the Free Beacon reports that California's Service Employees International Union, one of the state's largest unions, is being taken to court in Hamidid v. SEIU Local 1000 for the recovery of the forced paid dues and/or fees dating back to 2012. If successful, the Beacon reports that this could affect 40,000 members and cost the union $100 million.

And the NEA and American Federation of Teachers (ATF) are likewise involved in class-action suits in California for the repayment of the illegally forced money the collected and spent on the election of Democratic politicians.

This is just starting. Clawback efforts could develop into something like a swarm of bees attacking union treasuries. It's not known whether or not these class-action lawsuits will succeed. But in any event, just in having to defend themselves, the unions will have less money to cause mischief in the political and social arenas. The Democrats lose again.

The Janus decision is certainly a political earthquake and the aftershocks will be felt for years to come.  But it must be noted that this long-overdue decision was by a narrow 5-4 vote in the Supreme Court. So it is easy to see why the left is freaking out over the prospects of a Trump Supreme Court. If the left loses its super-legislative body in the Supreme Court, its prospects for transforming America diminish. 

If you experience technical problems, please write to