Relative Windfalls for Government Unions


A major not-quite-sub-text of the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME ruling is the issue of funding labor unions, which cycle the money into the political system.  The Wall Street Journal recently highlighted some numbers along these lines:

Pennsylvania stopped collecting agency fees from 24,000 state workers that totaled $6.6 million last year, a state official said. The figure is expected to grow because it doesn’t include workers at municipalities across the state. In New York, which has the highest rate of public sector union membership, the state stopped collecting agency fees in July from 31,000 state workers which totaled between $9 million and $10 million last year, a spokeswoman for the New York State Comptroller said. That tally is also expected to grow because it doesn’t include local agency fees.

By one estimate, unions in New York state overall will lose $112 million in agency fees from 200,000 state and local workers, based on what workers paid in 2016, according to the Empire Center, a conservative think tank in Albany.

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Writing for the majority of the Supreme Court, Justice Samuel Alito touched on this angle:

We recognize that the loss of payments from nonmembers may cause unions to experience unpleasant transition costs in the short term, and may require unions to make adjustments in order to attract and retain members. But we must weigh these disadvantages against the considerable windfall that unions have received under Abood for the past 41 years. It is hard to estimate how many billions of dollars have been taken from nonmembers and transferred to public-sector unions in violation of the First Amendment. Those unconstitutional exactions cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely.

Clearly, the windfall from government employees who have declined to join unions but have still paid them money pales in comparison with the money that unions have collected by virtue of their monopolistic role in government employment.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    While it is generally accepted by cognoscenti that “government cannot win a battle with unions”, I wonder if it might not be a matter of picking your battles. Witness Calvin Coolidge and the Boston Police Strike, or Ronald Regan with the Air Traffic Controllers.