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.
The court said employees who don’t join unions shouldn’t have to pay “agency fees,” even though the unions bargain on their behalf. That’s partly because, under the law, nonunion workers have no choice but to let the unions negotiate for them; they’re not allowed to represent themselves or have another union go to bat for them.
More important, the court ruled, forcing nonmembers to support a union — and, in effect, its political views — via a fee violates their free-speech rights. The plaintiff, Mark Janus, an Illinois state worker, refused to join his union because he opposed its positions. He was being made to pay to promote views he disagreed with.
Yes, the ruling hurts public-sector unions and pols (mostly Democrats) who depend on them for support. But no need to reach for the Kleenex: Many of the 22 states affected, including New York and New Jersey, have taken steps to make it hard for workers to quit, so as to cushion the blow.
And the unions have already used their influence to tilt laws in their favor. That’s why places like New York, with its powerful labor groups representing 1.2 million workers, have such fat payrolls — and steep taxes. And why public services, notably in the schools, are so dreadful.
Wednesday’s ruling can help balance the scales. Beyond that, 200,000 state and local nonunion workers in New York can save more than $110 million a year, the Empire Center reports. And 1 million members can choose to quit and save money, too.
If unions want dues-paying members, they’ll have to convince workers it’s in their interest to join — not rope them in via laws that force them to pay fees no matter what.