Mark Janus, pictured above, isn’t a fan of “his” union. As an employee of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, he is “represented” by Council 31 of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees. But he “does not agree with what he views as the union’s one-sided politicking for only its point of view,” and “believes that AFSCME’s behavior in bargaining does not appreciate the current fiscal crises in Illinois and does not reflect his best interests or the interests of Illinois citizens.”
In 2015, Janus and two other state employees filed suit in federal court, alleging that compulsory payment to government unions — they have no choice, and under Illinois law, must contribute their “proportionate share of the costs of the collective bargaining process, contract administration and pursuing matters affecting wages, hours and conditions of employment” — violates their rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.
The case is now before the U.S. Supreme Court, and its impact is potentially momentous. If victorious, the plaintiffs will secure for “all government workers — not just in Illinois, but across the country — the freedom to choose whether to give their money to a union.”
Janus v. AFSCME makes a compelling argument that “the collective bargaining process itself is political when taxpayer funds go to pay the negotiated wages and benefits, especially given the great power of unions in electoral politics and the size of public employee payrolls.” If union bosses play hardball with an automaker, supermarket chain, or airline, there’s negligible impact on public policy. That’s hardly the case with government “labor” organizations, which “lobby or bargain against reductions to their own benefits packages or to shift more significant reductions to other … programs or services,” meaning that “there is no principled distinction between the Unions and the various special interest groups who must expend money on political activities to protect their own favored programs and services.”
As the Competitive Enterprise Institute put it, “For far too long, workers nationwide have been forced to finance unions they didn’t vote to join and pay to support inherently political organizations. It is time to stop this state-backed union funding scheme.”
If the High Court sides with Janus and his fellow plaintiffs, the impact in New Mexico could be significant. Employees of local and state government would be freed from having to pay “their” unions a dime — effectively, they’d have the right to work that private-sector employees in 27 states enjoy. It would a victory for labor freedom, and a blow to the Land of Enchantment’s unlimited-government lobby.