U.S. Supreme Court: Ruling could change how unions operate

It didn’t take long for New York’s public sector unions to launch a pre-emptive strike to protect their agency fees.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 in which a union member is asking that public employees who choose not to join unions not be required to pay compulsory agency fees. The Empire Center for New York State Policy recently noted that between 2013 and 2016, a period covering two local election cycles (2013 and 2015), two legislative election cycles (2014 and 2016) and a gubernatorial election (2014), political action committees associated with 83 New York government unions spent more than $52 million on state and local elections. That money came largely from the roughly $862 million the Empire Center estimates is collected each year in agency fees from the state’s government unions.

Mark Janus chose to fight the fees after coming to the realization that his voice wasn’t being represented despite his financial contributions. A CBS News report quotes Janus’ lawyer saying Janus was concerned that AFSCME was asking for too much in pay and benefits for its workers at a time that the state was having budget issues.

The Supreme Court heard Janus’ case in late February and has yet to render its decision. A ruling in favor of Janus would hurt union bank accounts, but it may make unions more responsive to both union membership and to taxpayers. It can be incredibly difficult to roll back even the most nonsensical regulation — like the Scaffold Law or prevailing wage labor rates — in part due to union opposition. Pensions left the private sector years ago in place of 401(k) plans, yet taxpayers will likely find themselves on the hook for public pensions until the end of time. The inability to roll back regulation or benefits in favor of systems that make more sense to taxpayers continues to make New York state unattractive to new businesses. Political activity has consequences, and New York is reaping those consequences as we speak as companies and residents flee the state.

Legislation in the state legislature — S. 5778A and A. 7601A — should never see the light of day. State legislators should abide by the Supreme Court’s decision, whatever it is.

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