official-gottfried-150x150-3129587Well, that didn’t take long.

A senior member of the state Assembly is already promising to introduce legislation that would effectively use taxpayer money to reimburse government unions for the “agency fees” they are no longer allowed to collect under last week’s SCOTUS decision in Janus v. AFSCME

The predictable response was laid out in a memo circulated to members of the Assembly by Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) on Monday, just five days after the Janus hand-down.

Gottfried, who hasn’t yet filed the bill itself, proposes letting public employers agree to “direct reimbursement” of the unions as part of contract negotiations. Public employers would pay unions for “the costs of collective bargaining, contract administration, and related costs.”

“That collectively bargained amount,” Gottfried wrote, “would then proportionately reduce the workers’ salary.”

In reality, however, it’s unlikely that any worker would experience a pay cut under the scheme described by Gottfried, given the realities of union negotiations under state law. Instead, a percentage of future raises would be designated as collective bargaining expenses and permanently embedded in base salaries on a recurring, permanent basis.

Gottfried said the bill was necessary to “overcome” the ruling in Janus, which held that workers can’t be forced to pay a government union. “People in the labor movement and their allies have been looking for ways to fight back and help support public sector organized labor,” he writes.

Meanwhile, New York unions are set to feel their first major sting from Janus. Comptroller Tom DiNapoli has told state agency heads that agency fees will no longer be withheld, beginning with paychecks issued July 11. The state government, SUNY and CUNY together collect about $12 million in agency fees each year. DiNapoli’s office today said 31,000 people would be immediately affected by the change, according to POLITICO New York.

To be sure, the ruling was unambiguous: Justice Samuel Alito wrote “States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees.” In total, about 1,700 local governments, school districts and public authorities will need to update their payroll systems to end agency fee deductions, which total about $112 million a year in New York. A letter was today sent to these employers by Empire Center executive director Tim Hoefer to ensure they followed the ruling appropriately.

Preserving these union revenues through a different channel, as Gottfried proposes, would raise constitutional issues of its own, however.

Justice Alito wrote for the Janus majority that everything government unions do constitutes political speech, and that people can’t be compelled to subsidize it.

As a legal theory in support of his proposal, Gottfried’s memo cited a March article by Aaron Tang, a University of California-Davis law professor, responding and building on another law professor’s arguments against the anticipated Janus ruling. The question posed by Tang’s title says it all: “Whose Money Is It Anyway?” Gottfried’s answer boils down to: Government Unions, at Taxpayer Expense.

About the Author

Ken Girardin

Ken Girardin is the Empire Center’s Director of Strategic Initiatives.

Read more by Ken Girardin

You may also like

State agencies recruiting for unions

A few months before the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2018 landmark decision in Janus vs AFSCME, Governor Cuomo promised government unions the state would “do everything in its power” to “protect” them from potentially adverse consequences. Flouting the clear intent of the court—and state law—Cuomo is keeping that promise. Read More

Unions puff up numbers post-Janus

One year after the U.S. Supreme Court said government workers couldn’t be forced to pay union dues, New York’s public-sector unions are concealing their losses by publishing inflated membership figures. Read More

Teachers union shrinks after Janus

New York’s statewide teachers union is collecting cash from about 6,000 fewer people than it was before the Supreme Court ruling that ended compulsory union fees for public employees. Read More

DiNapoli blocks the union exit

State officials are still working overtime to shield government unions from the impact of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME. This week, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli’s office has issued new guidelines effectively giving the unions the first say on efforts by employees to opt out of union dues payments. Read More

NY’s (mis)leading union tactic

Desperate to minimize a potential loss of dues under a recent Supreme Court ruling, one of New York State’s largest public employee unions is telling public employers to disregard the union’s own previously stated conditions for letting workers stop paying dues. The tactic employed by the Civil Service Employees Association (CSEA) in response to the Janus v. AFSCME decision will put local governments in a bind—which is likely to end up generating added legal bills for taxpayers. Read More

Cuomo’s bad Janus advice

Governor Andrew Cuomo hit a new extreme in his bid to prop up government unions, telling public employers to ignore parts of both state law and the Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. Read More

The Janus Ultimatum

As of yesterday, New York’s government employers can no longer deduct dues-like “agency fees” from government employees who haven’t joined a union, even if the union involved has a contract requiring them. Read More

The return of Hotel California

For a second consecutive year, the state Assembly is poised to pass a union-backed bill that would make it harder for New York government employees to opt out of union membership. This time, at least, it may be debated first. Read More

Subscribe

Sign up to receive updates about Empire Center research, news and events in your email.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Empire Center for Public Policy
30 South Pearl St.
Suite 1210
Albany, NY 12207

Phone: 518-434-3100
Fax: 518-434-3130
E-Mail: info@empirecenter.org

About

The Empire Center is an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank located in Albany, New York. Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.