The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s new chairman, Stephen Skoly makes an important point in a recent op-ed (emphasis added):
At the root of the Janus case is the inherently political nature of government unions, which negotiate for taxpayer funded benefits. Prior to Janus, these activities were subsidized with dollars forcibly taken in dues or fees from public employee paychecks. Now that workers have been restored their rights to choose whether or not to pay, unions must become more transparent and diverse in their election and legislative advocacy, if they are to keep their members. Employees should know how their dues money is spent; this, too, will be part of our campaign.
For a sense of how true this inherent politicization is, look no farther than Dan Yorke’s interview with the director of the National Education Association of Rhode Island, Bob Walsh. Walsh makes light of the political allegation by breaking down the unions’ individual activities into their component parts, but that’s a distraction. Instead, look toward the end of the interview, when Yorke turns the conversation to politics.
Note, in particular, that Walsh is explicitly speaking in his role as a union leader and that his points are inextricable from the union’s activities. Explaining the two sides of the scale when it comes to his union’s decision not to endorse a gubernatorial candidate for the upcoming primary, Walsh says that Governor Gina Raimondo was “helpful in replacing Commissioner Gist.”
This is a reference to former Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, who tried to bring some measure of reform to Rhode Island’s system, in which it is badly needed. The union did not like her efforts to make its members accountable, so it helped to bring somebody into office who would appoint a commissioner more to its liking. One can see the same thing in unions’ efforts to determine with whom they’ll be negotiating in local school committee races.
Thus, government unions are on every side of every negotiating table, leveraging taxpayer funds that until Janus employees had no choice but to give them to affect who will be elected. That would be inherently political even if the unions weren’t leading advocates for a far-left ideology on issues having nothing to do with representing employees.