This op-ed was originally published Fox News on January 25th, 2019.
Government labor unions are losing dues-paying members at an unprecedented rate, which is good news for workers and bad news for liberal coffers. The mass exodus is forcing leaders on the left to address a serious problem: Their decades of financial backing from fat cat union bosses may be coming to an end.
Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark right-to-work ruling last June (Janus v. AFSCME) and the Freedom Foundation’s efforts to inform public employees of the court’s decision, more than 40,000 union members on the West Coast have defected during the past six months alone. Now that government workers have a choice to leave their unions, they are fleeing in droves.
The sharp decline in membership probably explains why union leaders have hatched a scheme in Oregon that they hope will become a playbook for the rest of the nation.
Oregon House Bill 2643, authored by Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, and scheduled to be introduced during the current legislative session, is a shot across the bow of Janus, which banned the so-called “agency” fees that government employees who successfully opted-out of full union participation were still required to pay in lieu of dues.
The measure would replace Oregon’s existing agency fee laws by creating a slush fund from which state and local government would pay the equivalent of each employee’s monthly dues directly to the union.
While Janus stops governments from requiring employees to make payments to unions out of their own pockets, HB-2643 proponents insist it doesn’t prevent state and local governments from supporting unions instead.
Rather than paying a state employee a salary of $50,000, for example, from which $1,000 in agency fees would be deducted, the bill proposes to simply alter the arrangement on paper so that the employee’s revised salary is $49,000, with the state diverting the remaining $1,000 to the union itself.
This underhanded scheme allows unions to keep lining their pockets and writing checks at liberal fundraisers.
The concept can trace its roots back to at least 2015, when a pair of leftist law professors – correctly anticipating an anti-union outcome in Janus – authored a law review article that hypothesized a radical restructuring of government/union relationships in order to exploit a perceived loophole in the ruling.
Union leaders and the leftist politicians they corrupt with someone else’s dues money are hopeful that this legislative monster currently on the drawing board in Oregon can be reanimated in other states too.
Their theory, however, has any number of legal and logical holes in it.
For starters, it envisions an impossibly unworkable arrangement in which the government represents both labor and management in collective bargaining negotiations – a prospect that makes even some union officials queasy.
More fundamentally, though, it completely disregards the court’s clear intent in Janus.
The whole point of Janus was to safeguard the right of government employees to decide for themselves which political causes and candidates to support – if any – with their hard-earned dollars. HB-2643 is a brazen attempt to seize that right and hand it back to a greedy, unscrupulous special interest.
The decline of unions may seem like the natural progression of American history, but it has real political consequences, especially going into 2020. In Oregon, we’re seeing a desperate attempt to save the left’s cash cow. And if their scheme flies in Oregon, you can bet your life your state will be next.