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It’s time for unions to collect their own dues

“How is it that my employer takes union dues out of my paycheck unless they are told by the union to stop?” I get this question from public employees often, so I think it is important to write about.

Public employees had their constitutional right to not financially support a union restored in June 2018 (under the Janus v. AFSCME decision). For fair-share payers, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling automatically gave them a pay raise—states that were affected by the ruling ordered public employers to stop deducting fair-share fees from non-member paychecks. But these states were silent about union members who had previously signed union cards authorizing the deduction of dues, mostly because they are under the sway of government unions. So, employers continue to automatically deduct union dues from public employees’ paychecks even though the union dues authorization cards employers are relying on do not meet the Court’s requirement of “affirmative consent.”

This will most likely need to either get worked out in the courts or through legislation, so expect union bosses to continue pushing back on fully complying with the Janus ruling and demanding that employers continue to deduct dues until they say otherwise. Which is ridiculous, because the government should not be playing a role in helping union labor officials collect their money. Unions, like other non-charitable organizations, need to be responsible for collecting their own dues. Not only does this give them a position of authority over public employers, but it also removes the accountability unions should have with the members they are supposed to serve. Unions should have to earn revenue from public employees by developing a customer-type relationship that explains why their services are worth paying for.

The Center mailed letters to all of Minnesota’s public employers, informing them they are out of compliance with the Janus decision and are undermining public employees’ First Amendment rights. It is unfortunate Governor Walz has not gotten involved, but it is not surprising. There is a cozy relationship that has developed between government and unions. Just look at the role public-sector unions play in determining who runs for office and who wins.

Legislators have an opportunity to stand up for public employees’ rights and eliminate the special privileges government unions have. There are state-level reforms that would make this possible.

Until those reforms happen, lawsuits across the country are challenging dues deductions and other areas of union membership, such as unconstitutional resignation “windows” that limit when public employees can exercise their First Amendment right to not be in or financially support a government union. If unions are not happy with states’ efforts to comply with the Janus ruling, they ought to carefully consider collecting dues from their members themselves. Keeping the state involved in these transactions means the state must comply with the First Amendment and have clear and compelling evidence of the employee’s choice to be in and pay money to a union—which, post-Janus, they don’t.

Governor Walz, you have a legal obligation as governor to fully restore public employees’ First Amendment rights in Minnesota. Call on public-sector unions to collect new dues authorization cards that comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling and tell employers to stop deducting dues until these authorizations are obtained. It’s time for our state to fully respect the voice and choice of our civil servants.

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