New York’s union leaders are condemning the U.S. Supreme Court decision that upheld the right of a worker to not pay union dues. But a newly passed state law might mitigate the effects of Janus v. AFSCME.

The court, in a 5-4 ruling, agreed with Illinois state worker Mark Janus that his First Amendment rights were violated when he was compelled to have $45 a month deducted from his paycheck by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, to pay for collective bargaining even though Janus did not want to be part of the union.

Union leaders in New York condemned the decision, as did many Democratic political leaders.

The Public Employees Federation, the largest state workers union, said the lawsuit was “backed by anti-worker extremists” who are trying to “rig the economy.”

Business groups applauded, though. The state’s Business Council called it a “welcome victory for employee choice and freedom of speech.”

New York State United Teachers union President Andy Pallotta said he thinks the ruling “galvanizes” the union movement and unions are fighting back.

Pallotta said unions anticipated that the Supreme Court, with its current political configuration, would rule against AFSCME in the case, and he said union officials have been reaching out to membership to remind them of the value of the organization.

“We’ve reconnected with our members,” said Pallotta, who added the outreach included knocking on doors and meeting with union members in the schools. “To make sure they know what the union does for them.”

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Legislature passed a law in March to help mitigate the expected effects from the Janus decision. The new rules make it easier for unions to recruit potential members when the state, municipality or school district hires a new employee and can also tighten the time period allowed for someone to opt out of the union.

Pallotta said while unions must allow non-union members to benefit from any raises or health or pension benefits gained through a union contract with employers, they now can withhold other perks, such as special deals on life insurance or even free legal services if they are accused of misconduct on the job.

“A lot of times, people need an attorney, and if they go looking for one, they’re going to have to go outside the organization to get one,” said Pallotta, who added that could be “a very disturbing experience for someone.”

Ken Girardin, with the fiscal watchdog group The Empire Center, said the new state law is a “favor to the union leaders” and bad public policy. But he said unions in New York still stand to lose significant revenue — and possibly, political clout — from the changes. He said when Michigan recently changed its laws and stopped compelling public workers to pay for union activities, 20 percent opted out.

“After people were given the right to choose, about one in five teachers chose to leave the union,” Girardin said.

Girardin said the Supreme Court ruling also could strengthen unions and their core mission, because now they will be forced to compete and will have to “sell” their product.

“It’s in the unions’ own interests that they start treating these people more like customers,” said Girardin. “And less like captive payers.”

Pallotta said he does not expect there will be a “sizeable drop” in his union’s membership numbers.

Later in the day, Cuomo took another step that he said will protect unions.

He signed an executive order that will shield state workers’ personal details, like their address and phone number, from the Freedom of Information Law so that anti-union forces cannot have access to the workers. Those details, though, are not commonly released on FOIL forms.

You may also like

Editorial: Cuomo’s problematic Medicaid maneuvers

“It’s everything that’s wrong with Albany in one ugly deal,” Bill Hammond, a health policy expert at the fiscally conservative Empire Center, told The Times. Read More

MTA, LIRR union relationship worse than ever; up next is collective bargaining

The MTA’s heightened focus on overtime follows an April financial report from the Empire Center for Public Policy that revealed alarmingly high overtime rates among some MTA employees, including former LIRR chief measurement officer Thomas Caputo, who made $344,147 in overtime on top of his base salary of $117,499. Read More


An April report from the Empire Center for Public Policy highlighted a 16% surge last year in overtime costs at the MTA — where the $418 million payroll cost in 2018 was $82 million more than what the authority expects to take in from the last fare and toll increases. Read More

EDITORIAL: Prevailing wage leads to prevailing waste

Research has found that prevailing wage requirements increase the cost of construction. In New York, a 2017 report released by the Empire Center for Public Policy found that prevailing wage requirements inflated the cost of publicly funded construction projects in the state by 13 to 25 percent. Read More

Post-Janus, battle for dues paying union members heats up

The battle over public-sector union dues in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision heated up on Wednesday as the Cuomo Administration and outside groups offered up differing opinions on the importance of membership cards. Read More

Man behind Janus case says public unions will have to sell themselves better after Supreme Court ruling

The Illinois state worker behind a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that public workers cannot be forced to pay union dues said Thursday morning that the unions will be forced to do a better job selling themselves. Read More

Unions fight back after Supreme Court defeat

“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. Read More

Supreme Court blow to mandatory union dues likely to have big impact in New York

The Supreme Court ruling Wednesday striking down requirements that public-sector employees covered by union contracts pay union fees even if they are not union members could have a dramatic impact in New York. Read More


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


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

Phone: 518-434-3100

General Inquiries:

Press Inquiries:


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.

Empire Center Logo Enjoying our work? Sign up for email alerts on our latest news and research.
Together, we can make New York a better place to live and work!