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Union leaders learned the wrong lessons, continue to crack down on public employees’ rights

In a long-anticipated decision in support of American public employees, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME freed millions of workers from subsidizing government unions’ political agenda. Because public employees were no longer bound to paying their union as a condition of employment, union leadership post-Janus was expected to try to woo those they represent so the dues money would keep flowing. Public employees weighing their options regarding union membership needed to be convinced unions’ services were worth paying for and that unions would prioritize public employees’ professional needs over divisive politics.

But union executives learned the wrong lessons from Janus, according to the Commonwealth Foundation’s Vice President and Chief Innovation Officer Jennifer Stefano.

In response [to Janus v. AFSCME], union leaders should have toned down the politics and focused on providing valuable services to their members. But apparently they haven’t learned their lesson. Instead, they’re stuck in the past, treating individual workers like dollar signs and acting as if workers’ opinions are irrelevant.

Case in point: At the state level, the union brass are exploiting every loophole to block union members’ resignations, siphon dues and invade workers’ privacy, as outlined in a recent 50-state public-sector labor report from the Commonwealth Foundation in Pennsylvania.

The Commonwealth Foundation’s report gives Minnesota a “D” on its public-sector labor laws. My article in the soon-to-be-published Fall 2019 issue of Thinking Minnesota highlights Minnesota union tactics to undermine worker freedom and constitutional rights. Public employees looking for an exit from union membership quickly find the door is shut and only opens a couple of days during the year, and lawsuits have been filed in Minnesota and across the country to defend workers’ rights. At the federal level, union officials are putting the interests of big labor ahead of American public employees and taxpayers and is an attempt to undo the restoration of First Amendment rights that Janus delivered.

Public employees are seeing through the messages of “strength” union officials like to tout. The Center’s EmployeeFreedomMN and EducatedTeachersMN projects have helped our state’s civil servants exercise their rights and free themselves from the grasp of their union because, as the Commonwealth Foundation’s Stefano states, “No public employee wants to feel owned.”

Cracking down on workers’ rights will hurt unions in the long run, financially and reputationally. Unless union leaders pivot to serving their members’ needs, rather than promoting a one-sided political agenda, government employees will rebel—and more dues-paying members and local unions will slip through their fingers.

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