Here’s a story I have read almost nothing about in mainstream media, but which is huge in its meaning and consequences.
Excerpted from Bill McMorris’s article at the Washington Free Beacon:
The Trump administration could bolster an Illinois state workers’ lawsuit to end coercive unionism, according to legal experts.
The Solicitor General’s office filed a brief supporting Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), a lawsuit challenging coercive unionism for government workers. The suit argues that the Supreme Court’s 1977 Abood decision violates the speech and association rights of workers by allowing government agencies to mandate union dues or fees as a condition of employment. The amicus brief from the Justice Department bolsters that argument.
“Abood thus ultimately endorsed precisely what it simultaneously prohibited: compelled subsidization of union speech for political or ideological causes,” the brief says.
The U.S. government has previously defended Abood before the court, arguing that it was necessary to preserve workplace harmony. The Trump administration is breaking from the federal government’s traditional position by making the case that all public sector collective bargaining equates to political speech, since wages and benefits affect the way state and local governments, as well as federal agencies, budget and set political priorities.
The payment of union fees violates the speech rights of public employees by forcing them to contribute to inherently political negotiations.
“In the public sector, speech in collective bargaining is necessarily speech about public issues. Virtually every matter at stake in a public-sector labor agreement affects the public fisc, and therefore is a matter of public policy concerning all citizens,” the brief says. “To compel a public employee to subsidize his union’s bargaining position on these questions is to force him to support private political and ideological viewpoints with which he may strongly disagree.”
The support of the federal government could bolster the plaintiffs’ case, according to labor lawyers. The brief opens the door for Solicitor General Noel Francisco to participate in oral arguments before the Court. Todd Lyon, a management-side attorney at Fisher Phillips, said it would “add value to the overall argument.”
I have to admit that I am conflicted about this legal initiative.
On the one hand, I strongly support the union concept. I don’t know of any other way average people can have leverage in dealing with larger, more powerful entities than by unionizing. And the history of this country is replete with horror stories about what happens when average people do not have such leverage.
On the other hand, I know that many (not all, but many) unions have gone far, far beyond the value described above and have become despotic in their own ways. I also know that, for the general welfare, there are very good reasons to ban public sector unions (do you really want a fire department or police strike?)
With the above in mind, I’m on the fence here, and will wait to see if there is some way, however improbable the likelihood, for an agreement to be reached which addresses the issues of both sides.
I’m not at all confident this can happen. But I can hope, can’t I?