How Government Unions Plan to Keep Members and Dues Flowing After Janus

Government unions are preparing for a world where they can no longer force non-members to pay dues in the public sector.

That is because a case before the United States Supreme Court, Janus v AFSCME Council 31, could end the practice of unions charging fees to public employees who are not members. This is obviously troubling to labor unions. Currently, in states that permit agency fees, government unions do not have to worry about providing representation to bargaining unit employees that they would voluntarily pay for.

But one of the most powerful public-sector unions has released a list of tweaks to collective bargaining agreements that can keep membership rolls and dues stable. Over at The 74, they have posted the National Education Association’s list of “8 essentials to a strong union contract without fair-share fees.”

The list essentially urges unions to negotiate collective bargaining agreement provisions that invade public employees’ private information, funnel public resources to the private interests of unions and keep workers from ending dues payments.

Below is a brief analysis of the most underhanded “essentials” from the NEA’s list.

  • Access to Unit Member Information: The union wants access to all members and non-members bargaining unit employees’ private information, including “name, job title, department, work location, home and worksite phone numbers, home and worksite email addresses, and home address.” The union wants this information updated on a biweekly basis and new hires information provided immediately. Distributing employees’ private information without their consent is ill-advised. This type of policy has been instituted at the federal level and private-sector by the National Labor Relations Board. Despite requiring private-sector employers to hand over workers’ information to unions, even the NLRB admits that workers’ private data could be used to “harass, coerce, or rob employees.” And unions have a long history of coercing and threatening workers to join a union.
  • Release Time for Leaders & Activists: This contract provision basically acknowledges that since unions will no longer be able to force workers to pay them, they’ll get taxpayers to foot the bill for them. Release time allows public employees to act as union officials on the taxpayers’ dime. Public record requests show employees on release time conduct political activity and attend social events and conventions. Release time is already a common provision in collective bargaining agreements, but if unions lose the ability to collect agency fees they will likely push for far greater allotments of release time. This is bad news for taxpayers because it is estimated that release time costs $1 billion nationwide.
  • Access to New-Hire Orientations: New-hire orientations are designed to increase union membership. This enables unions to make their pitch to a “captive audience,” a practice unions condemn employers for conducting, while prohibiting opposing views at the meeting. Many times these orientations are mandatory to attend. In Washington State, the Service Employee International Union misled home care providers at an orientation meeting that joining the union was mandatory.   
  • Maintenance-of-Dues Payments: This provision would maintain forced union dues for a period of time. It would require public employees to pay dues for one year even if they revoke their membership “a day after signing up.” The 74 reports that the NEA’s and AFT’s Minnesota affiliate have already started implementing a version of this practice. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation has sent out a special notice to employees warning them of the practice and questions its legality. 

Check out the rest of the “8 essentials to a strong union contract without fair-share fees” here.

In states beholden to labor unions, like Illinois, California and New York, there is little doubt that state officials will succumb to these contract demands. However, for other states, it is important for those across the table from government unions to carefully inspect collective bargaining agreements for these provisions that waste tax dollars, put workers’ private information in jeopardy, and restrict worker freedom.