A most interesting and insightful editorial in investors.com, reflects upon what we have always known to be true. UNION OFFICIALS HAVE ALWAYS USED FORCED DUES FOR POLITICS. Robert Chanin admitted it back in 2001.
After the Supreme Court ruling that banned forced union dues for public sector workers, liberal activist groups started complaining about how they were going to lose a huge source of funds. Wait. Didn’t unions repeatedly claim that those forced dues only went to collective bargaining costs?
The court case, Janus v. AFSCME, centered on the practice in 22 states, whereby public-sector workers could be forced to pay a portion of the union dues, even if they didn’t join the union. The court ruled 5-4 that this was a violation of free speech, because it meant that government was forcing nonunion workers to subsidize political advocacy, candidates and policies they don’t support.
Throughout the debate, big public-sector unions insisted that those forced dues were perfectly reasonable. Since nonunion members also benefited from union collective bargaining deals with state and local governments, it made sense for them to cover their share of those collective bargaining costs. The unions called it “fair share” fees.
None of those forced dues, unions emphatically stated, went to political causes, so there was no free-speech violation.
“The simple truth is that no one is forced to join a union and no one is forced to pay any fees that go to politics or political candidates. That is already the law of the land,” is how the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees put it.
But this week, the New York Times published a lengthy story explaining how the Janus decision will not only hit public sector unions but “will also hit hard at a vast network of groups dedicated to advancing liberal policies and candidates.”
These groups, the Times reports, got tens of millions of dollars from public sector unions — “funding now in jeopardy because of the prospective decline in union revenue.”
The giant Service Employees International Union says it cut its budget by 30% on the assumption that the court would rule against the unions in the Janus case. The Times says it “had been talking with leaders of liberal groups for two years about how to offset the loss.”
Public-union money accounted for up to 15% of the Economic Policy Institute’s budget, the story notes. EPI puts out pro-union studies that the press then reports as credible research. America Votes got $2 million in 2016.
So how is it that — if none of the forced dues went to pay for anything other than collective bargaining — all these liberal activist groups are worried about having their gravy train cut off?
Surely the loss of those “fair share” fees would only come out of the unions’ collective bargaining budget, not the massive amounts of money they spend supporting liberal groups and causes. Right?
Unions might say that losing all that “fair share” money means they’ll have to shift money from other activities to cover reduced collective bargaining dollars.
But that just underscores the fact that money is fungible. By forcing nonunion members to pay “fair share” fees, unions could free up substantial amounts of funds — that otherwise would have been spent on collective bargaining — to pay for political activism.
What’s more, unions had fairly wide discretion over what counted as “collective bargaining,” for which they could directly charge nonunion members.