Uncivil unions

Unions try—and fail—to disrupt an event to honor two leaders in the employee freedom movement.

Led by the Teamsters, a disgruntled assortment of union protesters unsuccessfully attempted to disrupt a lunch forum in September that featured two prominent leaders in the fight for employee freedom.

The event, sponsored by Center of the American Experiment, was organized to honor Mark Janus and Rebecca Friedrichs. Janus, a social worker employed by the State of Illinois, successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that nonunion government workers cannot be forced to pay fees to public-sector unions. The Court went further, requiring unions to get affirmative consent from employees, and employers to have evidence of that consent, before deducting dues. Janus v. AFSCME is considered the most significant court decision affecting public-sector unions in decades. Friedrichs also appeared before the High Court, but her effort fell short in a 4-4 tie due to the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016.

The protesters claimed to represent 12 unions, but Center employees observed only the presence of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UCFW), Teamsters 320, the Association of Machinists, and Education Minnesota. A teamster told Center intern Jack Campbell that the protesters appeared on behalf of all unions, not just public-sector unions. Part of their disruption included driving a Teamster semi-trailer in front of the hotel with its horn blaring, in an effort to keep the speakers from being heard.

The event was held at the Hilton Minneapolis Hotel. Service employees wore “Union Strong” buttons while serving lunch, and several joined the protesters outside the hotel after the food was distributed.

Unions have been upset since the Center launched its Employee Freedom project in 2015 to help free public employees from mandatory support for public-sector unions.

The project has been headed by Kim Crockett, vice president and senior policy fellow at American Experiment. “Public employees do not know their rights, and they are being pressured by unions that do not want to lose their revenue and power,” Crockett said. “Unions have enjoyed, and still enjoy, a position of political privilege that was never envisioned by our constitutional system or representational democracy. Lawsuits have been filed, and legislation is being drafted, to enforce the Court’s ruling. We are up against Goliath, but remember what happened to him.”