June 2021 marked the third anniversary of Janus v. AFSCME, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed public employees’ constitutional right to opt out of paying union dues. Public servants across the nation now have the freedom to decide whether a portion of their pay will support the political views and activities of unions.
Unsurprisingly, Janus has dealt a blow to government employee unions that previously relied on mandatory dues payments to fund their operations. This fact was highlighted in recent weeks in the state of Pennsylvania, where, for over a year, the Freedom Foundation has been hard at work informing public employees of their First Amendment right to opt out. One of the three unions in the Keystone State affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) recently closed its doors.
On June 17, OPEIU Healthcare Pennsylvania, Local 112, informed the U.S. Department of Labor it had terminated operations and turned its assets over to an OPEIU local based in New York City.
The decision to shut down was, according to the union, a direct result of Janus and the drop in union membership that followed. Once the healthcare employees represented by OPEIU Local 112 learned they had a choice, many of them jumped at the option to cancel their membership and financial support of the union.
“The organization continues to lose money, and with the Janus (sic) decision, the organization opted to dissolve,” stated Local 112’s most recent LM-2 report filed with the Department of Labor.
In its heyday, Local 112 boasted an operating budget of $700,000 and represented more than 1,200 employees.
Those numbers, which had suffered steady decline since fiscal year 2016, took a sharp downturn in 2019 and 2020. Over that period, the number of employees paying dues to the union dropped by 15 percent, and dues revenue fell to $420,025.
Facing deficits, Local 112 decided to pull the plug and merge with a much larger union, OPEIU Local 153.
Local 153 is one of the largest OPEIU locals in the country — so big, in fact, that its business manager also serves as OPEIU international president. Still, it, too, witnessed a precipitous drop in membership following the Janus decision.
Local 153 had more than 14,300 employees on its membership rolls in 2018. That number sank to 13,060 in 2019, and then to 12,177 in 2020. In a free and fair system, people vote with their feet, and it appears more than a few OPEIU-represented employees have headed for the exit.
Lastly, it is worth noting that OPEIU Local 112’s deteriorating financial picture was not reflected in the paycheck of the union’s head official. Even as dues revenue declined, executive director Michael Bodinsky received a steady string of compensation increases.
According to federal filings, he received $166,200 in fiscal year 2018. By 2020, his pay had climbed to $187,300. Last December — just months before Local 112 was officially dissolved — Bodinsky retired from his union position with a base salary of $218,071 and $174,183 in “Disbursements for Official Business.”
That totals $389,254, a 108 percent increase over the previous year.
OPEIU Local 112’s story is representative of unions that have historically relied on the power to force dues payments from public employees in order to sustain their operations and political activities. That system is increasingly untenable as the Freedom Foundation continues to inform employees of their First Amendment rights recognized in Janus.