Imagine that you pay a fee for a service like Netflix, but you end up not liking it, so you cancel your membership. Then, Netflix decides it is still providing you a benefit, so you must continue to pay the membership fee. Your response would probably be to tell your bank to stop paying them. However, for public employees who want to opt out of their union, it’s not that simple.
In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) made a landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME that allowed every single public employee in the country to opt out of their government union and stop paying union dues. However, for tens of thousands of public employees across the country, these rights are being suppressed by the unions and their employers, the government.
For years, we’ve run a campaign to inform and assist these public employees with their rights to opt out of their unions. And for years, unions, rather than provide benefits and services to their members that might convince them to stay, have been pulling every trick in the book to coerce and steal these employees’ hard-earned dollars.
One of these tricks involves including deceptive fine print in their union membership cards that attempts to force public employees to continue to pay union dues for up to one year after they decide to opt-out of their union.
If any other private sector business tried to implement these types of tactics, the left and the right would band together to condemn such actions. However, government unions are the largest contributors to liberal politicians in the country, and those same bought-and-paid-for politicians allow this practice to happen in the states they control.
This week, the Freedom Foundation handed SCOTUS a prime opportunity to stop government unions from blatantly ignoring the Janus decision. They now have the chance to free millions of taxpayer-funded employees from being forced to pay union dues, all in one little-known lawsuit out of the Ninth Circuit.
The case is Belgau v. Inslee, and a decision by the U.S Supreme Court could have a devastating impact on government unions that maintain a stranglehold on state and federal policymaking.
My colleagues and I have been fighting government unions’ deceptive tactics for years, even before Janus. In fact, we submitted an amicus brief to SCOTUS in the Janus decision in anticipation of such tactics being used.
Rather than allowing unions to regard every government employee as a dues-paying member until he or she successfully opts out, the brief argued that no one can legally be a member until they agree to opt in.
The court concurred, and when the final ruling in Janus v. AFSCME was released, it made clear that any employee who agrees to join a union and pay dues is waiving their First Amendment right not to support the union’s political activity. And since a waiver of rights cannot simply be assumed, the prospective member must be advised of their rights and grant permission before a union can deduct dues from their pay.
In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito quoted our brief almost word for word, and its meaning is unambiguous.
Nonetheless, unions ignored it. And when we took them to court to enforce the ruling, lower court judges on the west coast consistently declined to interpret Janus as broadly as its authors intended. Some judges went so far as to say Justice Alito’s opinion was wrong.
Belgau should change all that. Its plaintiffs are a group of Washington state employees from whose wages the union is deducting dues long after they demanded their freedom.
If heard by the court, Belgau will be the first to argue that every government union membership agreement signed before Janus or since is invalid unless accompanied by written proof that the worker has knowingly waived his or her right to opt out.
If SCOTUS agrees, such a ruling would quite literally mean every government union in the country must have all public employees sign new membership cards affirmatively consenting to have union dues taken from their paychecks. Former governor Scott Walker took similar action in Wisconsin, which led to more than 50 percent of public employees making the choice to leave their unions.
If the justices side with the Freedom Foundation, it will be a cataclysmic event for government unions. With the stroke of a pen, labor leaders won’t have millions of members blindly handing over their dues every month.
Overnight, the whole script will flip. Instead of organizations working to help union members get out, unions will have to work full-time just to coax them back in.
Most won’t return. And when the unions have no members, they’ll also have no money. That means liberal candidates and causes those unions almost exclusively back will have to start funding themselves the way conservatives do — with their own money instead of someone else’s.
Union bosses will scream bloody murder about how unfair the decision is, of course. After all, when you’ve enjoyed a government-enforced monopoly for generations, the prospect of one day having to compete on the open market for someone’s dues money must be terrifying.
Ain’t it a shame?
Aaron Withe is national director of the Freedom Foundation, a multi-state public policy organization specializing in the abuses of government employee unions.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
The Daily Wire is one of America’s fastest-growing conservative media companies and counter-cultural outlets for news, opinion, and entertainment. Get inside access to The Daily Wire by becoming a member.