It’s too early to know what yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Janus case means for public employees and the unions that represent them. But reactions and speculation abound.
The ruling is especially significant for Washington, which is not a right-to-work state. That means employees must pay a fair share fee for representation, even if the individual chooses to opt out of the union.
However, Wednesday’s ruling upends that practice, making union dues for public sector employees, including state, county and local workers, non-compulsory.
The decision was met with strong opposition by Washington labor leaders and Democratic politicians, in one of the most pro-union states in the country.
Washington State Labor Council president Jeff Johnson and Secretary Treasurer Lynne Dodson in a statement yesterday condemned the decision, concluding
No court decision will stop us from fighting for good jobs, safe workplaces, affordable health care, and dignity at work for everyone. Today, we recommit not only to sustaining Washington’s labor movement, but to building a stronger one. In this economy, working people must stick together in strong unions to demand better wages and benefits. The unions of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO will redouble efforts to guarantee the freedom to join, stand and negotiate together.
The Lens reports reactions from two groups that celebrated the ruling.
While the decision could also overturn a new Washington law, the full impact to the state’s public policy is not yet known and could depend on what action if any is taken by either the state legislature or public unions themselves.
However, Washington Policy Center’s (WPC) Director for Worker Rights Erin Shannon told Lens that no matter what, Janus “represents a significant shift in what our political and policy landscape moving forward will look like.”
She adds that for public sector unions, “it’s a whole new business model.”…
Freedom Foundation CEO Tom McCabe said in a statement that “nothing in this decision prevents workers from organizing or bargaining collectively if they choose to. It simply allows them to keep their jobs if they don’t. From now on, instead of just being handed someone else’s money, the unions will have to earn it. If they can’t survive without a government-enforced monopoly, they have only themselves to blame.”
Politicians and union members participated in rallies in various cities across Washington. KUOW reports on one in Seattle.
At a rally after news of the ruling broke at Harborview Medical Center, King County Executive Dow Constantine gave voice to Democrats’ frustration.
“We are angry!” Constantine said. “And in November we are going to get even!”
In Spokane, the Spokesman-Review reports, union leaders say that they anticipate little immediate impact.
“I feel like we do a good job of providing a service to our members,” said Randy Marler, president of Spokane Firefighters Union Local 29. While he personally disagrees with the decision, he said it probably won’t have much effect on his organization…
Katy Henry, president of the Spokane Education Association, said the union that represents teachers and classified staff in the Spokane Public Schools has very few agency fee members. They’ll stop paying the portion of dues that went to services like collective bargaining because of the decision, but the vast majority of the members will remain in the union, she said.
Local union leaders expressed disappointment at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Wednesday regarding public sector union fees.
Leaders considered a decision a blow to worker representation.
However, it appears that the financial impact for several local unions will be minimal.
Ira Cavin, president of the Yakima Policemen’s Union, which represents Yakima Police Department officers, said union membership in good standing is a condition of employment.
All the workers that IAFF represents are also union members. Teamsters 760 has “fewer than five” nonunion public workers paying fees, Crouch said.
The uncertain aftermath will take months to sort out. As Route Fifty reports,
It’s still speculative how the court decision will affect union finances…
The unions and their supporters see a larger agenda and a protracted battle.
Proponents of agency and fair-share fees say that eliminating them creates the risk of a “free-rider” problem, where people opt out of paying into the union, but still benefit from its services. This, in turn, creates the possibility that unions could have their finances weakened.
But Heidi Shierholz, a senior economist and director of policy at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute, said the concerns go beyond union finances. “Worker wages and benefits are what will be hurt if unions don’t have enough resources to do their work effectively,” she said.