States helping public unions weather the effects of Janus decision
According to a study released by the Manhattan Institute, the effect of last year's Janus v AFSCME Supreme Court decision has been mitigated somewhat by a determined effort of state governments and labor allies to shield unions from the decision's effects.
The Supreme Court prohibited union contracts that required public-sector workers to either join the union or, if they declined, pay it a regular "security clause" fee to cover its expenses. Since only about one third of state workers belong to a union, it was believed that the decision would devastate organized labor.
It didn't, according to Daniel DiSalvo, one of the authors of the study.
Workers could still voluntarily join a union, but it was widely believed that the contract provisions were the main factor in getting workers' support. Public sector unions depend on those contract provisions to ensure a steady flow of revenue, and many braced for a financial blow from losing them.
But new state legislation generally made it easier for unions to attract and maintain members by ensuring unions had contact information for public sector workers and requiring the workers to meet with them.
Some went further. California, Washington, and New Jersey prevented public entities from informing workers that they could opt-out. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, signed an executive order prohibiting public entities from sharing worker contact information, which prevented conservative groups from alerting the workers to their rights. New York has granted public sector unions a monopoly for providing workers with benefits, such as life insurance. New York and Rhode Island allow certain unions to refuse to represent nonmembers in grievance proceedings.
Unions also stepped up in terms of organizing efforts. AFSCME claimed that it had representatives meet personally with 600,000 workers represented by its contracts, translating into a 12,000-member net increase in 2018. On average, unionized public sector workers make 10-14 percent more in salary than their nonunion counterparts, so unions could often make a strong pitch.
Either way, workers benefit from the Janus ruling, DiSalvo says. "The unions have to be more responsive to their members and focus on the bread and butter stuff now."
It appears that public unions' investment in buying political power has paid off when they needed it the most. Their massive political contributions — mostly to Democrats — has shielded them from the worst of the fallout from Janus.
How long will unions "be more responsive" to their members and focus on "bread and butter stuff" rather than campaign contributions? DiSalvo sounds overly optimistic to me. These are huge institutions that will always find a way to advance their interests. In a few years, we probably will forget that Janus even happened.