My View: Public workers freed from union dues
It's fitting — almost poetic — that the Supreme Court's landmark Janus decision came in the days between Juneteenth and the Fourth of July.
Juneteenth (June 19th) commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. It's also known as Freedom Day or Emancipation Day. The Fourth of July, of course, celebrates American independence.
The high court's June 27 ruling in Janus will live in U.S. history as the day on which America's government workers gained their true freedom, their emancipation from the union masters they have hitherto been forced to support with the sweat of their brow.
Here's what the Supreme Court's majority specifically ruled in Janus: A government worker — in this case, Mark Janus — can no longer be forced to pay "agency fees" to a union if he or she does not want be a union member.
Some states, Oregon among them, require nonunion public workers to pay these "agency fees" to the government union for the "services" the union provides them (or not). Workers have been "free" to not join a government union if they want to work in the public sector, but they still must pay the union a fee — typically 70 percent to 80 percent of regular union dues.
The Janus majority found that compelling a worker to pony up this mandatory fee — coercing nonunion members to support the government union's infrastructure and activities — inevitably violates these workers' First Amendment rights. The mandatory fee forces them to subsidize union free speech they may abhor.
The bottom line for public workers in Oregon and similar states: They have a right to work in their state's public sector without having to pay union dues or fees against their will. They're free men and free women, they have constitutional rights, First Amendment free speech rights, like other Americans.
Of course, no right is secure simply because a court or document says so, especially when one group has been living high on the hog at the expense of someone else's liberty. Oregon's government union masters have enjoyed outsized political clout as a result of compelled union dues and fees. They've already shown that they'll do anything to keep their good times rolling — even misinforming their own members.
Anticipating the Janus decision, government unions like SEIU and AFSCME have been asking Oregon public employees to "re-commit" by signing membership cards, which contain "trick and trap" fine print.
The SEIU card says membership and dues are "irrevocable" except during a mysterious 15-day period each year and that "SEIU has the power to keep taking dues from an employee's paycheck "irrespective of (the employee's) membership in the union."
AFSCME's cancellation period extends for only 10 days. After the Freedom Foundation emailed SEIU and AFSCME members about their unions' "Hotel California" scheme — you can check in, but you can't check out — hundreds of members decided to quit these unions.
In short, the Janus decision itself is only the beginning of the end for the payment of coerced union dues and fees. The ruling will have to be implemented.
Going forward, the Freedom Foundation will be working to inform Oregon public employees of their new rights under Janus. We'll be educating city, county, state and school district employees about how it's now possible to stop paying union dues and fees against their will. We'll be visiting with them outside government offices, publicizing news of their emancipation in the media and going to court if the union bosses and government officials try to deny Oregonians their rights under Janus.
In the meantime, public workers who want to be free at last of all ties to their government union can go here to opt out: www.optouttoday.com/oregon.
The Supreme Court has put power in the hands of government employees across the United States. Beyond Juneteenth and Fourth of July, Janus v. AFSCME will ensure that Labor Day is a holiday for every public worker in America. Union and nonunion.
Aaron Withe is the Oregon director of the Freedom Foundation. You contact him and learn more
about the organization at