Public-sector unions were dealt a serious blow by the Supreme Court last week when the justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining.
The reasoning is that forcing people to contribute to a cause they don’t believe in is a violation of the workers’ First Amendment rights to free speech.
There is a bigger issue at play in public-sector unions, however, and that is the very relationship between government workers and government officials. Even a great champion of labor causes such as Franklin Roosevelt fought against collective bargaining for government unions because they were essentially bargaining with themselves in their role as “We the People.”
Moreover, because unions have become huge political forces in their own rights, money collected from public-sector union members can be used to elect government officials who will be sympathetic to union demands. It is this incestuous relationship that puts the entire process into doubt.
Consider, for instance, that in the Inter Lake’s story about the local impact of the court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME Local 547, the human resources director for Kalispell Public Schools was quoted in such a way that she was clearly an advocate for the schools’ unions rather than the school district.
“The one thing we are hoping as a district is that employees understand the value of unions and what they bring to the organization,” she said.
Color us confused. That sounds more like the opinion of a union organizer than a school district representative, and that sums up why we weigh in on the side of the majority in this decision.
It remains to be seen how many public employees will opt out of sending money to unions as a result of the Janus ruling. Local government and union officials don’t expect to see major changes any time soon. Nonetheless, it should be reassuring to everyone that American citizens cannot be forced to support causes they don’t believe in as a condition of employment with their own government.