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Wall Street Journal: Resisting the Supreme Court

Unions and politicians are circumventing the Janus decision.

Do unions believe in the rule of law? That’s an urgent question as unions and their political friends try to circumvent the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in June blocking the forced collection of union fees. 

In Janus v. Afscme, the Supreme Court not only banned such fee collection. The majority opinion explicitly stated that government employees must “clearly and affirmatively consent before any money is taken from them.” The legal point was that public workers must be given the chance to opt-in to a union before governments can grab cash from their paychecks and give it to unions.

Before Janus, public workers faced intense pressure to join a union, and they often had nothing to gain by opting out. Labor claimed to represent the entire workforce, and even non-members had to pay “agency fees” or “fair share fees.” The amounts often are the same as union dues. Janus said this is unconstitutional, but unions and politicians are still behaving as if that ruling is merely advisory.

In Minneapolis, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (Afscme) allows members to leave the union only during windows as narrow as two weeks. The union also says some members are subject to “maintenance of dues” agreements where they must continue paying “for a set period of time” even if they opt out. A worker from the University of California system says the Teamsters are insisting that members can’t quit the union and stop paying fees until their collective-bargaining agreement expires—in 2022.

Pam Pursell, president of the Du Quoin Education Association of Illinois, told teachers in an email that if they want out, “You MUST write a personal letter of why you do not want to belong to our union.” She added that there “is NOT a form to fill out online,” and if the opt-out letter wasn’t received within a week, “you will become a [union] member.” 

State politicians are abetting this blatant political resistance to the Supreme Court. In anticipation of Janus, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy signed the Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act in May. Workers now have a mere 10 days a year to submit paperwork that stops the government from dunning their paychecks for union fees. If they miss it, they’re stuck paying.

New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli criticized the Janus ruling as “just plain wrong.” He has since issued guidance claiming the Bureau of State Payroll Services “must rely upon unions for the information necessary to determine whether and when a member/union relationship has been initiated, severed or otherwise changed.” New York will continue to deduct fees at union request. 

This is lawless behavior that robs workers of money and their First Amendment right not to support speech or causes they oppose. The Liberty Justice Center brought the original Janus case and has received a deluge of messages from workers who say unions and state officials are continuing to take fees from their paychecks. “Almost no governments across the United States are in full compliance,” says Diana Rickert of Liberty Justice.

The nonprofit has already sent several cease-and-desist letters to rogue states. The group is threatening litigation if states don’t stop the illegal dues-skimming, and lower courts will have to intervene to enforce the law.