Many young conservatives entering the workforce will face a dilemma to stay true to their values of free markets or surrender to forced organized labor in the hope of achieving economic prosperity. Corrupt union bosses attack American liberty and force this decision. That is not a choice a free people should have to face.
In my home state of New Jersey, the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) has rigged the system and “siphoned off hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars.” As a result, the state’s largest union has plunged the state’s pension system into $124 billion in debt. New Jersey residents pay some of the highest taxes in the nation, only to have the money intended for community benefit flow towards supposedly “non-political” union groups and their agendas.
Last month’s Supreme Court 5-4 decision, Janus v. AFSCME, delivered a victory for workers’ rights and a major blow to powerful public unions. The Court ruled that nonunion workers cannot be forced to pay dues to public sector unions, siding with the plaintiff, Mark Janus.
The decision overturns the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which allowed public unions to demand that all employees pay “agency fees.” Critics, like Mark Janus, contended that forced “agency fees” are unconstitutional, because unions use these dues to support candidates for political office. For instance, according to the AEI, the NJEA’s total political expenditures since 1999 tally up to $760.3 million.
Before this court case, required agency fees removed any incentive to opt out for skeptical workers. In New Jersey, the cost to leave the union was 85% of the standard dues required every year. Now, employees can leave without payment and public-sector unions will thus need to provide improved services to maintain current membership levels.
Evidently, the Janus decision will have an enormous impact on mass political spending apparatus of unions. Accordingly, the NJEA promptly released a statement saying, “The wealthy and powerful have always wanted to weaken unions, because we, the people who make up unions, refuse to be intimidated by them.” However, the NJEA is the epitome of wealth and power in New Jersey. In 2015, NJEA executive director Ed Richardson earned $1.2 million, largely funded by taxpayer dollars (as union dues are taken directly out of teachers’ salaries).
The same day that the NJEA released the dishonest statement, New Jersey State Senator Declan O’Scanlon (R-13th District) took an entirely different approach, standing up for both New Jersey workers and taxpayers:
“The cycle of public employee unions using dues to finance the campaigns of politicians who then reward them with taxpayer dollars may finally be coming to an end… In New Jersey, the millions unions have funneled into campaigns has led to expensive government driven by the highest taxes in the nation. This ruling is a victory for workers as well as for even-handed political debate. Public union money frequently, purposefully overwhelmed any potential for legitimate, fair, and open public discourse.”
Unfortunately, a number of states have already sought to minimize the positive impacts of the Janus decision. Back in April, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed legislation to bolster unions’ grip on public employees by forcing workers to provide their respective union with personal information within 30 days of hiring.
Other states have also responded to the ruling. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, subservient to his union donors, released a statement, and sided with the state’s powerful unions over the economic freedom of both taxpayers and workers. He referenced the Orwellian “Workplace Democracy Enhancement Act,” a law similar to New York’s.
The Janus decision is certainly a step in the right direction, but supporters of freedom and individualism would be wise to remain vigilant. Corrupt liberal politicians and powerful public unions will undoubtedly do whatever they possibly can to override the Supreme Court’s constitutional authority. As Americans who cherish our Constitutional liberties, we have an obligation to ensure that the freedom of the individual worker always triumphs over forced collectivism. Originally formed to protect and defend the rights of workers, many unions now do their best to deny workers’ the right to choose, but, ultimately, freedom will prevail.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.