One of the many challenges of working in outreach for the Freedom Foundation is trying to help a government employee leave his or her union, only to find out that they’re hopelessly ensnared in an opt-out window trap.
Four-and-a half years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, affirming that union membership and dues cannot be a condition of employment on the public workplace. But union leaders were prepared when it came.
No doubt their lawyers had been warning them for years that virtually every activity undertaken by the unions representing government employees is inherently political. Thus, forcing workers to fund with their dues dollars a political agenda they don’t agree with violates their First Amendment free speech protections.
Terrified Janus would lead to a flood of members parting company with their union — taking their precious dues revenue with them — union leaders hatched dozens of schemes to make the opt-out process so complicated no one would actually go through with it.
Limiting opt-outs to a union-created two-week annual window is among the most insidious of these —and least constitutional. For the record, when the justices in Janus agreed compulsory union membership and dues violated the workers’ Constitutional rights, they didn’t mean for just two weeks a year.
In Washington state, the three largest government unions — the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE), the Washington Education Association (WEA) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) — are overtly guilty of using the window tactic to trap their workers.
Determining when and how to exercise their right to be free of a union is the prerogative of the workers, not the union, elected lawmakers or unelected bureaucrats.
Nor is it within the purview of lower courts to limit rights only recently affirmed by the Supreme Court.
Moreover, what the unions don’t realize is that, by denying workers their constitutional rights, they alienate the very people they so virtuously claim to represent.
Happily, the union has awakened a slumbering giant. In turn, these folks become the Freedom Foundation’s biggest allies, helping to spread the word to their friends and coworkers that the union is trash and that they too can stop supporting them by opting out in the window period.
The union loses and the Freedom Foundation puts the “win” back in window.