Several public sector unions have seen declining membership and overall fees being paid, since 2018, according to the Wall Street Journal.
This is no coincidence given that same year was host to one of the most monumental Supreme Court decisions regarding public sector unionization in recent decades — Janus v. AFSCME.
Thanks to the Janus decision, provisions in union contracts mandating that government employees either join or pay fees or dues were effectively scrapped. In essence, this Supreme Court decision established right-to-work policies for public sector employees in states that don’t have such policies.
These laws have traditionally allowed private-sector employees to not have to pay dues or join a union as a condition of employment. It essentially restores the freedom of association to countless workers who do not desire to be a part of a union. This decision represented a major blow against public-sector unions.
For example, the Washington Federation of State Employees lost dues from approximately 7,000 nonmembers in the wake of the ruling. About 5,000 workers canceled their union membership and stopped paying dues last summer, according to filings made to the Labor Department. In sum, these numbers mark a 27.4 percent decrease in fees and dues to the union, which ended up taking in $3.2 million less than in 2018.
Similarly, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees saw 1,700 workers stop paying fees and 448 workers tear up their union membership since the Supreme Court decision. Although this association acquired new members, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees reported 1,662 fewer dues-paying members through August 2019. Overall, this represented a 5 percent drop compared to two years prior.
Generally speaking, the unionization rate among government workers is still high nationwide, but it has experienced a slight decrease in recent years. From 2017 to 2018, the Labor Department highlights that the rate of government employees in a union dropped from 34.4 percent to 33.9 percent. In contrast, the private sector unionization rate is 6.4 percent.
Private sector unions, despite some of their flaws, are preferable to public sector unions. Most of the problems regarding private-sector unions are derived from the state privileges that they have won through New Deal legislation such as the Norris-LaGuardia Act — which keeps the federal government from issuing injunctions against acts of violence during strikes, and the Wagner Act — a law which establishes compulsory collective bargaining.
These laws allow unions to receive government backing, which gives them leeway in trampling on the freedom of association of non-unionized workers. Resolving these issues is a matter of repealing the aforementioned legislation and possibly considering decentralized labor unionization models.
But, public-sector unions are a different beast. Take a private union strike for example. When there’s a strike and a store shuts down, consumers can shop at another place. In the same vein, the management is at liberty to hire replacement workers.
However, with a teachers union strike, school is discontinued as long as the strike goes on. Add in comfortable salaries and the next to impossible ability to fire unionized teachers, and it becomes exceedingly difficult to hire replacements. In essence, taxpayers are taken hostage, as certain public services are shut down and mounting pressure is placed on elected officials to do something. Eventually, the politicians acquiesce and grant these unions even more benefits, all at the taxpayers’ expense.
Due to how public-sector unions can exert disproportionate pressure on politicians, they ultimately end up determining the rate of taxation in a given jurisdiction, not the voters. It is a small wonder why some states ban public sector bargaining altogether. Taxpayers end up getting stiffed while unions rack up fat wads of cash. In sum, public sector unionization effectively transfers the ability to tax from voters to unions.
Thankfully, people are catching on to public sector union shenanigans. To truly end these perverse practices, more decisions like Janus and more reforms at the state level will have to be realized in the near future. While trade unions can have their place, public sector unions are a cancer on the public and should be undermined as much as possible within the confines of the law.