By Rob Roper
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to abolish the practice of pubic-sector labor unions literally stealing money from non-members was long overdue. What the Janus decision said, in a nutshell, is that the misleadingly named “fair share” practices that allowed unions to charge non-members “agency fees” is compelled speech, an abridgment of citizens’ right to freely associate, and, therefore, a violation of First Amendment rights.
Vermont was one of twenty-two states that sanctioned agency-fees that can amount to 75 percent of full union dues. The Vermont Teachers Union says that it charged annual agency fees of $454 to 1100 people, compared to the full union dues of $629 (BFP, 6/27/18). The Vermont State Employees’ Association (VSEA) charged 1,513 people $14.73 per pay period as opposed to $17.75 for full membership. VSEA estimates it will lose $800,000, or about a quarter of the its $3.5 million budget, as a result of the decision (VPR, 6/27/18).
Union advocates argue that the work they do collectively bargaining on behalf of their members benefits all workers, regardless of union status. As such, they feel entitled to take by force money from those they deem to be “free riders” – the workers who don’t want to, for whatever reason, voluntarily join the union. But this is not an accurate description of what was happening.
Unions are not forced to bargain on behalf of non-members, they demand the right to do so. This creates for them a monopoly, which they covet. As such, you will not see pro-union legislators in the next session offering up counter-Janus measures kicking the free riders out from under the collective bargaining umbrella if they still refuse to join up.
Bernie Sanders and other pro-union advocates are decrying this as a blow to working people, but it takes some pretty twisted logic to believe leaving more money in the pockets of the people who worked to earn it is somehow bad for workers. If the product unions are providing for their members is really worth $450 a year, people will pay for it. If it’s not, they won’t.
If VSEA does end up losing $800,000 it is only because their membership does not value what they are selling. Sorry, but no sympathy here. Fix your product or go out of business — but the days of putting the government gun to somebody’s head and picking their pockets are, thankfully, over.