The Fight for Freedom Must Continue Post-Janus
Any day now the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, a case brought against government unions for charging non-members “agency fees.” If unions are prohibited from charging those fees, the cost of members’ dues could soar — by hundreds of dollars in the case of California Teachers Association members. The result? Less money and fewer members.
A favorable ruling would be great news for non-union members, but what about the rest of us?
In his latest California Policy Center column Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher and California Teachers Empowerment Network President, shows there is still plenty of work to be done in the states no matter how SCOTUS rules.
First, absent changes to state laws, taxpayers will continue footing the bill for teachers unions dues collection, according to Sand:
As I have written before, the taxpayer is the bagman for the teachers union, whose dues are deducted by the local school district from a teacher’s monthly paycheck just as federal and state withholding taxes are. Then the school district turns the money over to the local teachers union. And we all get to pay for this service. Yup, the teachers union, a private organization, doesn’t pay a penny for the transactions.
Numerous states have restricted this practice, including Washington (1992), Idaho (1997), Wyoming (1998), Utah (2001, H.B. 179), ), Idaho (2003, Voluntary Contributions Act), Indiana (2005, Gov. Mitch Daniels’ executive order), Alabama (2010, SB 2, see here also), Wisconsin (2011, Act 10), Arizona (2011, Senate Bill 1365), North Carolina (2012, S 727), Michigan (Public Act 53 of 2012), Kansas (2013, HB 2022), Oklahoma (2015, House Bill 1749), Kentucky (January 2017, HB 1), Iowa (December 2017, HF 291), and most recently Oklahoma (May 2018, Senate Bill 690, which prohibits school districts from putting conditions on employees’ decisions to initiate or terminate any payroll deductions), and Missouri (June 2018, HB 1413). (See also here, here, here, pp. 66-67 here; and pp. 601-604 here ).
Several other states are attempting to ban school districts from acting as unions’ dues-collection agencies, including Louisiana (HB 593), Minnesota (HF 3723 and SF 3387), New Hampshire (HB 1803), New Jersey (S 1650 and A 183), Ohio (here, here, here, and here), Pennsylvania (House Bill 1174 and Senate Bill 166, see also here), Tennessee (2016, SB 151/HB 294 and 2017, HB 356/SB 404), and West Virginia (SB 335).
In stark contrast, California is trying to double down on the practice. Pending legislation (Assembly Bill 1937) would “reaffirm” the duty of public employers to engage in payroll deductions when requested by employees and their unions. However, employers must get approval from the unions, not the employees, before they can take deductions or enact any administrative rules.
Sand highlights some additional salient facts taxpayers in the states should keep in mind.
Teachers unions are private, tax-exempt organizations. The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, reported nearly $366 million in revenue, while the California Teachers Association reported more than $183 million. “The sickening irony here,” says Sand, “is that these unions persistently use their taxpayer-paid tax-free money to raise taxpayer taxes!”
In a post-Janus world, teachers unions could be fighting for their collectivist lives. Anticipating an unfavorable ruling, part of their fight in California is a slew of pending legislation, including a bill that would force taxpayers to subsidize union dues (AB 2577). Yet these same private organizations oppose educational choice programs, claiming they “privatize” education. A leading target of teachers unions is tax-credit scholarship programs, which allow taxpayers to claim credits against their state taxes for donations to non-profit scholarship organizations. Those credits, teachers unions argue, should instead fund government schools—or perhaps the unions themselves, if the California union subsidy bill passes.
“[W]hen it comes to a private entity making a killing from public education, the teachers unions have no peers,” Sand concludes, adding, “While fair-minded people everywhere are rooting for Mark Janus to win his case and strike a blow for employee freedom, here’s hoping the taxpayers in California and elsewhere will, at some point, get their shot at emancipation…”
Vicki E. Alger is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute and author of the book Failure: The Federal “Misedukation” of America’s Children.