Public-Sector Unions and Gifts of Public Funds

The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME prohibits states from allowing public employee unions to dock non-union members’ wages to support collective bargaining and other political activities. The ink had barely dried on that decision before experts began proposing workarounds. For example, First Amendment scholar Eugene Volokh and others suggest that states could reduce public employee salaries by the amount needed by the union to engage in collective bargaining, and then allocate that amount of public funds directly to the union. On its face, this proposal seems plausible, because courts offer taxpayers little recourse in making First Amendment free speech challenges to public expenditures. But there’s a big problem: all state constitutions contain a Gift Clause that prohibits the government from making a gift of public funds to a private organization. Originally these clauses were added to prevent states from gifting public lands to railroads, but...(Read Full Article)