The two major public sector unions, SEIU and AFSCME have filed regulatory reports giving the first indications of the impact of last summer’s Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME that freed unionized public sector workers from forced payments to these unions.
The reports don’t reflect the impact of the Janus decision, so much as worker decisions and union action taken before the Supreme Court decision. Workers who had resigned union membership before the Court’s decision embraced their new-found right and ceased paying non-member fees (the fees they had been forced to pay before the decision). Both AFSCME and SEIU lost virtually all their fee-paying non-members, about 100,000 each.
The report data does not give nearly so clear a picture about membership. While AFSCME and SEIU membership held roughly steady, the data covers only the first six months after the court decision. Union bosses claim that members are remaining steadfastly loyal in face of “anti-union attacks.” However, much of that solidarity derives from the bosses’ devious schemes to lock workers into membership and dues paying, schemes launched well before the Court decision — and still continuing.
These schemes are actually anti-worker compared to the Supreme Court’s decision that union bosses rail about. The bosses’ primary strategy is to lock in workers with what have come to be known as Hotel California rules — easy check-in, but you can never leave. Union bosses are tricking the workers they purport to represent into virtually irrevocable contracts. In contrast, the court has given workers the freedom to choose what to do.
Unions began well before Janus to “encourage” members to sign new membership cards explaining in fine print that membership continues year to year unless revoked by a member submitting a written resignation request both to the union and to the employer within a 15-day “window” each year. The window is not uniform. It is different for each member, depending upon when he or she joined the union. To say it is easy to miss the window is an understatement.
The unions are proceeding with the assistance of politicians in blue states. Democrats in Washington State have just passed legislation allowing unions to sign up members by five different methods, but mandating that they can only resign by one, the Hotel California rule described above.
Not only are union bosses and friendly politicians designing one-sided rules, but they are conspiring to authorize one-sided propaganda campaigns. Here in Connecticut, the General Assembly is poised to pass House Bill No. 6935 which maximizes the union’s ability to propagate its message and prohibits any non-union messaging.
The bill provides that public employers must (1) give unions complete contact information for each worker, (2) provide the union access to new employee orientations sessions, (3) provide one-on-one work-site access to employees to discuss “workplace issues,” (4) allow “worksite meetings” during mealtime or non-work breaks and (5) allow the union to use the employer’s email system to communicate with workers.
On the other hand, the bill makes it a “prohibited labor practice” for a public employer to discourage membership in a labor organization or to “knowingly aid” “any other entity” that might “encourage an employee to resign or decline to obtain membership in a labor organization.”
You can’t get more one-sided than that. Bill No. 6935 is a de facto violation of free speech rights which the Supreme Court sought to defend in its Janus decision. How can speech be free, if only one side of an issue can be expressed?
Not all workers are happy with union leadership’s strong arm tactics, nor are all workers being fooled by them. Last year, here in Connecticut, AFSCME Council 4 took Wallingford to the State Labor Board because the town stopped deducting non-member fees from the paychecks of two unionized employees at their request. Well, AFSCME has since lost a certification election and no longer represents the workforce in question.
Recently, unionized workers in one Connecticut school district contacted this columnist about the new Hotel California membership cards that they had been asked to sign. They haven’t signed them. They are keeping their options open. They can resign at any time under the pre-existing rules.
Red Jahncke is the president of Townsend Group Intl, LLC, a Greenwich-based consulting firm.
Red Jahncke is a nationally recognized columnist, who writes about politics and policy. His columns appear in numerous national publications, such as The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, USA Today, The Hill, Issues & Insights and National Review as well as many Connecticut newspapers.