By Lowell Ponte
“To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical,” wrote Thomas Jefferson in the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
This will be a central issue this week as the U.S. Supreme Court considers whether a government worker can be compelled to pay money to a public employee union. Although not strictly union dues, the “agency” fees required by such unions typically range from 50 percent to 100 percent of union dues.
In 1977, the high court’s Abood decision allowed such coercive exactions on the assumption that unions acted primarily as collective bargaining agents for government workers and served their interests. But since the policies of any government employee union inevitably influence government policy, these unions are inevitably also political.
Today, moreover, as the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger notes, these “unions have become political parties” promoting their own far-ranging leftward ideological agendas to enlarge government and advance specific political causes, such as giving the right to vote to felons. Union members now provide both money and shock troops to the partisan Left.
Most would agree that compelling a citizen to pay a hefty hunk of his or her wages to any political party would violate that person’s rights of free speech and freedom of association. The very point of civil service reform more than a century ago was to remove government jobs from the corrupt old political “spoils” system, named after the saying “To the winner go the spoils,” through which activists in either winning party were given government jobs to reward their partisan loyalty.
When public workers are forced to pay unions that have used their coerced money to become the biggest funders of Democratic Party candidates, this violates their rights and corrupts our democratic republic. A National Science Foundation-funded General Social Survey found that 32 percent of unionized government workers identify as Republicans or Republican-leaning independents. But at least 90 percent of all public employee union political contributions are given to Democrats.
Such de facto taxation of workers is all the more cynical because it funds a private union monopoly intertwined with a public government monopoly. The Progressive politicians empower public unions, then divvy up the money that fat cat union bosses have squeezed from workers. Workers who should serve the public equally are exploited by unions to fund mostly one political party.
The politicians use such union money to get reelected, and then renew union power and move to make unionized government even larger. And unlike the private sector, where companies bargain to keep their own profits, in government the unions often have helped elect the very politicians who now sit across the bargaining table – politicians usually more than happy to give away to the unions dollars not earned by government but simply coerced from taxpayers.
The workers lose, and so do taxpayers who pay the cost of ever-bigger, more corrupt government. We get “the best government money can buy,” thanks to Leftist campaigns lavishly funded with what in a free society would be defined as stolen money.
The leftist press is terrified that this week’s court case, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31 – perhaps the most important landmark case in decades – could put at risk nearly two-thirds of public union campaign money ($166 Million in 2016) that the four biggest public employee unions give the lion’s share of to Democratic candidates. Could Democrats win without this extorted union money advantage? Perhaps not.
After World War II, more than a third of U.S. workers were union members. Today only about 6.5 percent of private sector workers are unionized. By contrast, federal, state and local governments are typically 36 percent unionized.
But, as Craig R. Smith and I discussed in our book The Great Withdrawal, even in “Progressive” Wisconsin unionized workers “given a chance by a new law to leave their union without penalty, have been quitting in huge numbers” of nearly 50 percent. Two states that were key to President Trump’s 2016 victory – Michigan and Wisconsin – over the past six years adopted “right to work” laws that had at least partially ended compulsory payments to government unions. Workers now have a “right to work” in 28 of 50 states.
Public employee union extortion almost ended in 2016, but the sudden death of Justice Antonin Scalia removed a conservative vote from the Supreme Court and ended the case Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association in a 4-4 tie vote. President Trump’s appointment of Justice Neil Gorsuch replaced Scalia with another conservative. Progressives are right to fear that the court ruling expected by June will take away much of their money and power by freeing their members.
To schedule an interview with Lowell Ponte, a veteran think tank futurist, contact: Sandy Frazier at 516-735-5468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a free copy of Craig R. Smith and Lowell Ponte’s latest book, Money, Morality & The Machine, contact: David Bradshaw at 602-918-3296 or email him at email@example.com