As Unions Sound Alarm on SCOTUS Labor Case, Here’s What Wisconsin’s Experience Shows

As Unions Sound Alarm on SCOTUS Labor Case, Here's What Wisconsin's Experience Shows

The Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in the case of Mark Janus, a child support specialist from Illinois, who is suing AFSCME because he has no interest in financially supporting the union’s political activities.

Since Janus is not a member of the union, he doesn’t pay the same amount in dues as union members. But thanks to a Supreme Court decision in 1977, he is forced to pay the union “agency fees,” feeding the coffers of an organization he wants nothing to do with.

The high court will determine whether these agency fees are unconstitutional. Since freedom of association is a basic tenet of the American idea, it would be stunning if the Supreme Court rules to uphold the 1977 precedent. Considering a similar case deadlocked 4-4 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the presence of Justice Neil Gorsuch gives advocates of worker freedom great hope that agency fees will soon be a relic of the past.

To say this is a big case would be an understatement. More than 5 million government workers in 22 states are currently forced to pay these unholy tithes to big government unions just to keep their jobs. That enormous spigot of cash gives unions like AFSCME tremendous political power. But what would happen if public employees are actually given a choice?

According to the unions, if Janus wins, government functions will be completely crippled and public unions will be destroyed. “The politicians who want to slash public services and crush unions are busting budgets with extravagant tax breaks,” wrote AFSCME President Lee Saunders in a recent op-ed.

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Observers of the Janus case can look to Wisconsin to find out what really happens when government employees have a choice. To put it mildly, Saunders is wrong.

In 2011, Gov. Scott Walker and Republicans in the Legislature pushed through a bold reform called Act 10. Among other taxpayer-friendly reforms, the landmark law allowed public employees to opt out of their unions without risking their job, prohibited government from withholding union dues from paychecks, and required annual re-certification of all government unions.


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