Supreme Court to hear suit challenging forced paying of public sector union dues

Mark Mix, president of the Right to Work Foundation, has penned an excellent Labor Day op-ed in the Washington Times that talks about the outsize role of public sector unions in politics and how forced payment of dues contributes to their political power.

Now, the Supreme Court has accepted a case that may change the entire dynamic of the relationship between public sector unions and the government.

The incestuous relationship between public-sector unions and politicians busts budgets and erodes democratic accountability. But without ready access to forced-dues cash, government unions’ political influence would decline dramatically. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has just agreed to hear a case that strikes at the heart of public-sector unions’ forced-dues privileges. In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a group of nonunion public school teachers is challenging a union policy that requires them to pay any union dues at all to keep their jobs.

Friedrichs gives the court an opportunity to outlaw all mandatory union dues in the public sector. To be clear, such a ruling wouldn’t end government unions. Employees who genuinely support a labor organization would still be free to join up and pay dues. What it would do, however, is limit government unions’ outsized political influence.

Without a guaranteed stream of income from nonunion employees, union officials wouldn’t have nearly as much money to spend on friendly politicians. Moreover, unions that actually have to persuade employees to join and voluntarily contribute tend to be more focused on their members and less fixated on partisan politics.

Outlawing mandatory union dues or fees in the public sector would also limit the ability of union officials to handpick their negotiating partners in state and local government. Politicians who aren’t beholden to union special interests are more likely to strike better bargains for their constituents.

Ideally, no employee — public or private — would ever be forced to pay union dues to get or keep a job. In Friedrichs, the Supreme Court has a chance to restore the workplace rights of America’s civil servants and end the corrupting influence of public-sector forced dues on our political system.

The argument for forced union dues has always been weak, but with public sector unions it falls apart entirely. As an example of the arrogant, untrammeled power of public employees in some states, Illinois' Republican Governor Bruce Rauner recently vetoed a bill that would severely curtail his power to negotiate with the unions. Thankfully, despite Democratic majorities in both houses, the veto was upheld. But Rauner, who has been at loggerheads with the unions since he took office, is still working to curb their power and give control back to the taxpayers.

A positive outcome at the Supreme Court will help immensely. But even if the court rules in favor of voluntary dues, state legislators would still have to pass the required legislation to enable it. And as we saw in Wisconsin, unions will fight tooth and nail to maintain their privileged position, brought about by forcing workers to pay dues even if they wish to decline joining a union. 



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