Not surprisingly, Richman and the big public employee unions like the current arrangement that provides union bosses with big salaries and millions of dollars for political contributions to their Democratic benefactors. Never mind the trade-off with public employees’ First Amendment rights.
The combination of exclusive union representation, mandatory agency fees, no-strike clauses and “management’s rights” are the foundation of our peculiar labor relations system. No other country structures its labor relations system quite like this. Knock one part out, as the Janus plaintiffs aim to do with agency fees, and the whole system can fall apart. Employers will not like the chaos that this will bring.
Richman predicts the truce between the state and government employees will be out the window if Janus prevails.
If the Supreme Court rules against AFSCME in Janus, many unions will abandon exclusive representation altogether. Their primary motivation will be avoiding the “free rider” problem — being required to expend resources on workers who opt out of paying anything for those services. And new unions will form to compete in that abandoned space.
The solicitor general of Illinois — indirectly a party to the Janus case — warned in Monday’s oral arguments “that when unions are deprived of agency fees, they tend to become more militant, more confrontational.” And AFSCME’s counsel warned about the thousands of contracts that would have to be renegotiated in a climate where an agency fee is no longer a trade for a no-strike pledge, raising “an untold specter of labor unrest throughout the country.”
Richman may well turn out to be right. But we’ve already seen what could be next in our neighboring state of Wisconsin, where the chaos and intimidation tactics of big labor lost out to the rule of law in the long run.