The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday that unions cannot collect fees from non-members could have wide implications across New York, which has the nation’s most heavily unionized public sector.
It’s tempting to dismiss this as political posturing. Unfortunately, the governor’s rhetoric hints that his assault on the public’s right to know might not end there.
The Supreme Court decision that says government workers can't be forced to contribute to labor unions is not ending any debate with several interest groups across New York pledging further activism.
New York public-sector unions could lose 200,000 or more members in the wake of Wednesday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling on collective bargaining, though a law the state adopted in March could blunt the impact by making it harder for people to opt out of union representation.
“What today’s decision affirms for all public workers is the right to choose, and that’s the most important part of it,” said Tim Hoefer, the Empire Center’s executive director.
“The unions had said the loss of agency fees would diminish their political power,” the Empire Center’s Ken Girardin explained. “Reducing their power would put them on a level playing field” with government officials while negotiating, perhaps yielding less-lucrative contracts.
Headlines about the US Supreme Court’s ruling in the Janus case stressed the “blow” to public-sector unions, but government workers were big winners. Taxpayers, too.
New York has the nation’s most heavily unionized public sector, with 1.2 million of 1.4 million government employees in unions, according to the Empire Center. The think tank estimates that all the New York public-sector workers opting out of union membership could cost unions $110 million in revenue. All told, New York’s public-sector unions collect at least $862 million annually in dues and fees, according to the Empire Center.