California

California Unions Launch Pre-Emptive Strike Against Possible End to Mandatory Dues

'Orientation' proposal sought to preempt possible Supreme Court decision next summer

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California's public-employee unions are among the most powerful interest groups in the state Capitol, yet an effort to sneak some language into a bill during the last week of the legislative session shows the degree to which even these lobbies fear a coming rollback in their financial power.

Efforts were underway to pass a "public employee orientation" mandate in which all newly hired public employees — including public-school employees and transit workers — must attend a program sponsored by the recognized local union. The "orientation" would take place during the workday. Employees would be required to show up in person. State taxpayers would pick up the costs. That effort just died in the Assembly yesterday, but is expected to return next year.

Under proposed language, "The content of the recognized employee organization's presentation shall be determined solely by the employee organization and shall not be subject to negotiation." The unions are carving out a right to lobby new employees to join and pay dues.

Put aside obvious concern at this privilege or the gut-and-amend process that would have it move along without normal hearings. This is the real eye-opener: Public employee unions haven't had mandated orientations because they don't need them. Newly hired workers must already pay dues to the recognized union.

What's going on?

This is a pre-emptive strike against a U.S. Supreme Court case that will be decided next summer. In Friedrichs v. the California Teachers Association, some Southern California teachers are challenging the fees workers must pay to teachers' unions. It could affect all public-sector unions.

Currently, the employees must pay dues, but can opt out of membership and need not pay for overt politicking. They must pay "agency shop" fees that deal with collective bargaining under the idea that all employees benefit from that work. Critics complain that these encompass most of the dues employees pay — and the unions throw obstacles in the way of employees who want to opt out of the political portion of their dues.

This legal situation stems from a 1977 Supreme Court decision known as Abood. The justices found it a violation of the First Amendment to force government employees to subsidize political causes they might not endorse, but acceptable that they must pay these "chargeable" expenses.

Friedrichs plaintiffs argue unions use these dues to negotiate with public agencies over the allocation of tax dollars, which is an inherently political question. If, say, unions gain big pay raises or higher pensions, that money comes from taxpayers — or is diverted from other public programs. They don't want to be forced to support those efforts. In a Supreme Court ruling in a 2014 case, Justice Samuel Alito seemed to invite a First Amendment challenge on this point.

The court could simply change the opt-out process, but it could toss out mandatory unionization. Unions are worried.

The California Teachers Association prepared a presentation titled, "Not if, but when: Living in a world without Fair Share." Fair Share is what the unions call the agency shop fee. Most of the union's stated response is unobjectionable, as it involves getting the group's message out to teachers.

But the latest legislative proposal is highly objectionable to many influential groups. "If proponents of agency fees are allowed to urge public employees to pay them voluntarily, this provides an opportunity to anyone with opposing views to address those employees in the same manner," argued a letter to legislators last week from several associations representing local officials including the League of California Cities and the Association of California School Administrators.

"We cannot emphasize too strongly that any legislative proposal on this matter would be premature, as it would pertain to a case that has not yet been considered and decided by the court," the groups added. That's the most obvious point. Why not wait and see what the court decides?

Even some pro-union voices have argued the Friedrichs case doesn't portend the end of the world for public-sector unions, in that it might force them to become more responsive and democratic. In other words, it could be a good thing for everyone if unions learn to rely less on their political power and more on convincing members to voluntarily join and pay dues. The unions might start practicing by holding orientations on their own time.

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17 responses to “California Unions Launch Pre-Emptive Strike Against Possible End to Mandatory Dues

  1. Without “U” there is no “U”nion.

  2. …it could be a good thing for everyone if unions learn to rely less on their political power and more on convincing members to voluntarily join and pay dues.

    Christ, Greenhut, I guess “everyone” doesn’t include the poor politicians in California who rely on union money for their campaigns.

    1. “Yea, for the politicians !!!!1!1!”

      Just doesn’t have the same ring as “childrenz”

      1. got to spellz it with a “z”

    2. “some pro-union voices have argued the Friedrichs case doesn’t portend the end of the world for public-sector unions, in that it might force them to become more responsive and democratic.”
      —————————–

      What “pro-union” voice is saying this? Does it speak in soothing, patient tones, through a smile that makes you want to believe?

    3. The idea that unions are so good for the worker that they must be compelled to join in order to work is a bit of cognitive dissonance such that I am not sure how anybody wraps their head around it.

      1. The idea is that some people “cheat” by taking the benefits the unions have negotiated without paying for them. That was the rationale when I was forced to pay dues to the UAW when I was a graduate student instructor even though I opted out of joining the union (yes – you heard right – the United Auto Workers unionized the graduate students, and the brilliant graduate students saw no cause for doubting the benevolence of their motivations . . . ).

  3. They must pay “agency shop” fees that deal with collective bargaining under the idea that all employees benefit from that work.

    How do I “benefit” if someone negotiates a contract on my behalf that grants me retirement benefits everybody knows the employer can’t pay, and that only the current old farts about to retire soon are going to benefit from? How do I “benefit” from contracts and working conditions that place seniority above performance? How do I “benefit” if someone negotiates a contract on my behalf that charges more than I’m worth and therefore makes it likely that I get dismissed?

    People should be paid “agency restitution” for having to suffer under union-negotiated contracts.

    1. How do I “benefit” from contracts and working conditions that place seniority above performance?

      By getting seniority. Enjoy the next 30 years. (In real life that would be 40, but we’ve redefined “retirement age” so we can crawl out of this hell-hole while we’re still capable of enjoying life in some much-nicer town where we’ll spend our millions in retirement bennies.)

      How do I “benefit” if someone negotiates a contract on my behalf that charges more than I’m worth and therefore makes it likely that I get dismissed?

      By deploying the next clause in our contract: There is no dismissal.

      1. It is a great deal if you plan on being unmotivated and indifferent about doing the job you made your life’s work.

  4. Union Cons:
    ? Less take home money over a lifetime. Large % of take home dollars eroded by union dues that the worker only reaps a small amount or benefit from.
    ? Increased demand for higher wages, benefits, and pensions continues even if the company is not growing. Eventually the chickens come home to roost and companies can no longer compete in the market place(Yellow Roadway Corp., Greece, GM, Dodge, US Steel, Stevedores, Hostess/Twinkie, among many others) and many more jobs are lost as a result of unionization over time (If you can’t be bailed out by your politicians).
    ? Higher union wages cause employers to lay off more people over time. The significant impact on profits makes the employer reduce the workforce in order to remain viable. Unionization contributes to higher unemployment while only a few higher tenured union vets make bloated wages. Check out the checker’s union.
    ? Smaller paycheck.
    ? Some are discriminatory. Do the black union employees make as much as white unions at ILA?
    ? Non-Union companies thrive and compete better than union dominated companies. More profit sharing, 401k matches, more opportunity.
    ? Not a meritocracy. Advancement comes by way of time in the union vs. earning better pay for better work done. Better employees are not paid more. Incentive to work for the bottom line erodes and company makes less money while paying out the same or higher (often negotiated) wages. The results are always layoffs.

  5. Union Fallacy Exposed ? “Compelling the continued employment of more workers than are needed to produce a product despite the fact that economic advances have made their employment in that line of work no longer necessary, has the effect of maintaining a product price that is unnecessarily high and thereby of depriving wage earners throughout the economic system of the funds they would have had available as the result of a lower price to spend on other products. And, it should be realized, the production of those other products, previously not affordable because of lack of available funds, would have required the employment of an amount labor equal to the labor initially displaced.”
    http://mises.org/daily/6333/La…..m-Troopers

  6. – “A businessman cannot pay a worker more than the amount added by the work of this employee to the value of the product. He cannot pay him more than the customers are prepared to pay for the additional work of this individual worker. If he pays him more, he will not recover his expenditures from the customers. He incurs losses and, as I have pointed out again and again, and as everybody knows, a businessman who suffers losses must change his methods of business, or go bankrupt.” ? Ludwig von Mises, http://mises.org/daily/6309/Foreign-Investment

    1. Oh, come on. Everybody knows that just means you hate poor people. FIFTY DOLLAR AN HOUR MINIMUM LIVING WAGE!

  7. Government unions are just thugs with no rule of law to hold them in check.
    Private sector unions are thugs that the market ultimately has to control by bankruptcy.

  8. Unions only exist in an anti-trust environment because they pay the Dems to protect them.
    They are totally illegal.

  9. “Friedrichs plaintiffs argue unions use these dues to negotiate with public agencies over the allocation of tax dollars, which is an inherently political question”

    ^^ So much this.

    And I’m sure I’ve told this story here before, but when I was still looking for work as a teacher, my last interview was at a private school that very much wanted to hire me but that couldn’t bend the union pay scale rules far enough to pay me well enough.

    They could easily have afforded me – they just *couldn’t* offer me more than the teachers who had been there longer, regardless of quality.

    This is what unions are doing for our educational system, and we pay extra for the privilege.

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