State of the Unions- Two Years After Janus

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, right, accompanied by plaintiff Mark Janus, center, speaks outside the Supreme Court after the court rules in a setback for organized labor that states can't force government workers to pay union fees, Wednesday, June 27, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It’s been exactly two years since the U.S. Supreme Court made its landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME. And to no one’s surprise, government unions have done everything possible to behave as though it never happened.

Janus affirmed the constitutional right of every government employee in the country to opt out of their union and stop paying dues and fees. Prior to the ruling, public employees like teachers and bureaucrats were forced to pay dues to a union regardless of their wishes.

Labor bosses claimed Janus was President Trump’s attack on working families. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) President Lee Saunders described the ruling as “… a purely political attack on the freedoms of working people. The true motivation behind this case is to satisfy the agenda of wealthy and powerful political donors who have spent tens of millions of dollars to, as they have said in their own words, ‘defund and defang’ the American labor movement.”

What Saunders failed to mention are the steps his union is taking to prevent working families from exercising their rights.

In the two years since Janus, AFSCME and other government unions have created various schemes to silence the voices of workers who wished to leave their union.

First, Saunders ran an aggressive propaganda campaign to intimidate any public employee thinking about leaving his or her union. He labeled them “free-riders” and encouraged shop stewards to publicize their names so co-workers would know who to ostracize.

He then attacked my organization, the Freedom Foundation, for informing public employees about their rights under Janus.

Government unions, like Saunders’ AFSCME, have filed frivolous lawsuits, worked with their elected cronies to change laws targeting the Freedom Foundation, set up shell organizations to attack our staff and board members, protested our events and even mailed our staff’s neighbors and stalked them at their homes.

These intimidation tactics are simply an unsuccessful effort to prevent us from informing public employees that they can leave their unions.

Why are the unions so worried? Because when people learn their rights, they opt out in droves.

To prevent as many defections as possible, union leaders hid fine print in new membership cards only permitting employees to opt out during a 10-day annual window.

They then mobilized union operatives to pressure government employees to sign them — if possible, without disclosing what they were signing.

Some refused to sign. No matter. The Freedom Foundation has documented dozens of cases in which the union officials simply forged their signatures on membership cards and submitted them anyway.

Despite the unions’ best efforts, the Freedom Foundation has been able to successfully run a robust opt-out campaign and sue unions for their illegal activities.

And the results have been overwhelming.

In Oregon alone, more than a third of all state employees have left the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and more than 35 percent of classified school employees have left the local American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

In Washington State, more than 29 percent of state employees have left AFSCME.

Tens of thousands of public employees in California have left their government unions because of our aggressive outreach. In the last three months alone, nearly 1,000 SEIU 1000 public employees have fled their sinking union.

While government unions in other parts of the country have largely avoided huge membership losses thanks to shady tactics and friendly pro-union governors, the Freedom Foundation has proven a dedicated effort to inform, defend and free public employees can succeed.

Aaron Withe is the National Director of the Freedom Foundation, a free-market organization committed to helping free public sector employees from union tyranny.