Public Unions

Deprived of Mandatory Dues, Public Sector Unions Come After Your Tax Dollars

After Janus ruling, state lawmaker in New York wants to include collective bargaining costs in state union contracts.


Erik McGregor / Pacific Press/Newscom

Public sector unions could lose millions of dollars because of the Supreme Court's ruling in Janus v. AFSCME last month, since they'll no longer be able to compel non-members to pay dues. But a state lawmaker in New York has proposed what he calls a "workaround" to let unions continue cashing in even if they lose members.

The solution? Redirecting funds that could be used to give workers raises into the unions' own accounts.

Rep. Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) plans to introduce legislation that would allow unions to include the costs of collective bargaining in their government contracts, the New York Post reports. That would tap taxpayers, rather than union members, to fund unions' operations.

"I don't think there's a lot of logic to the Janus decision to start with, but New York state—in our Constitution and law—has long recognized that public employees have the right to collectively bargain," Gottfried tells the paper.

Of course, nothing in the Janus ruling prohibits public sector employees from bargaining collectively. The ruling merely says that unions cannot compel dues payment from non-members covered by collective bargaining agreements. Those mandatory dues payments—also known as "agency fees"—violate workers' First Amendment rights, the Supreme Court ruled.

"Public employees are forced to subsi­dize a union, even if they choose not to join and strongly object to the positions the union takes in collective bar­gaining and related activities," wrote Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority opinion. "We conclude that this arrangement violates the free speech rights of nonmem­bers by compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern."

Post-Janus, union will have to convince their members that it is worth paying monthly dues to support the unions' activities.

Gottfried's proposal seems to put the interests of the union itself ahead of the interest of its members. His bill would redirect funds that could otherwise go to workers' paychecks to cover the unions' operating expenses. In a memo to colleagues in the state General Assembly, Gottfried says the bill would let public employers agree to "direct reimbursement" of the unions' bargaining costs as part of contract negotiations.

"The collectively bargained amount would then proportionally reduce the workers' salary," Gottfried wrote.

In effect, workers would instead get the leftovers after the union got paid first.

But it's unlikely that any worker would actually experience a pay cut under Gottfried's scheme, says Ken Girardin, policy analyst at the Empire Center, an Albany-based think tank.

Public sector unions have a monopoly on representation, so including the cost of contract negotiation in the contracts they sign means taxpayers would end up paying more without any reasonable hope that governments could choose a less expensive option.

"A percentage of future raises would be designated as collective bargaining expenses and permanently embedded in base salaries on a recurring, permanent basis," Girardin writes.

In other words, taxpayers will pick up the tab for unions' political activities.

To comply with the Janus decision, state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli announced last week that agency fees will no longer be withheld from workers' paychecks starting on July 11. According to data from the Empire Center, there are about 200,000 public sector workers in New York who are not union members. They will save about $110 million annually by not having to pay the fees.

That could be just the start. An analysis by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, a union-backed think tank, estimated that 726,000 workers, including some 136,000 members in New York, would choose to stop paying dues if the Janus decision went against the unions.

"Janus put public sector unions at a crossroads. They could embrace a voluntary system or they could double-down on coercion," says Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The New York proposal, he tells Reason, would "allow union officials to sell out workers to line their own pockets."

Elsewhere, unions are looking for other ways to keep the revenue flowing in the post-Janus world. In Hawaii, one unnamed worker tells Hawaii Public Radio that when he tried to opt out of mandatory dues payments he was told he would have to wait until it was time to renew his annual membership in the state's largest public sector union.

"There's not an 11-month waiting period for the First Amendment to kick in," says Semmens.

NEXT: D.C. Wants to Ban No-Cash Businesses and Cash Discounts

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Grifters gonna grift.

    Film at never.

    1. I’m making over $7k a month working part time. I kept hearing other people tell me how much money they can make online so I decided to look into it. Well, it

      was all true and has totally changed my life.

      This is what I do…

      1. Sounds like a cute little club Smentha.

    2. Cynicism is the opposite to knowing anything at all. Your mind is closed to evidence and reason.

      1. You’re not so smart, are you?

    3. Cynicism is the opposite to knowing anything at all. Your mind is closed to evidence and reason.

  2. Elsewhere, unions are looking for other ways to keep the revenue flowing in the post-Janus world.

    Including, one assumes, changing their behavior to court rather than coerce new dues-paying members.

    1. Why improve your product to convince customers to stay when you can do nothing and have your butt buddies in the state legislature whomp you up a funding source?

        1. I don’t want anyone as pure as Ronnie brought into this horrible world of politics.

      1. The workers aren’t the public employee unions’ customers. Politicians are.

        Public employee unions are a means for politicians to launder public funds into their campaigns. That’s the only reason they’re tolerated. All the Janus ruling is doing, is prompting the politicians to cut out one of the steps in the money laundering.

        On the bright side, it does make what’s actually going on a little more blatant. So it’s a step in the direction of transparency. But it would be cheaper if the politicians just wrote themselves checks, instead; Laundering money is very inefficient.

        1. Exactly.

        2. So a direct incumbent-campaign-fund tax?

  3. That memo in the links was a pure joy to read – union dues defaulting to $0.

  4. Public sector unions have a monopoly on representation

    This is something I’ve never understood. Are the unions required to have a monopoly on representation? If not, then why isn’t the option to just stop representing folks who don’t want to be in a union and let them fend form themselves.

    If the law requires unions to represent these people, then change that law.

    1. Are the unions required to have a monopoly on representation?

      It’s conceptually easier for an employer to negotiate with their employee’s representatives (especially self-interested ones) than it is to negotiate with each employee. Further, how hard do you want to tug on that thread? If you’re required to meet diversity and/or licensing requirements as an employer, an effective union has been created that you must deal with.

    2. Are the unions required to have a monopoly on representation?

      It’s generally a term of the negotiated contract – i.e. the union forces the employer to recognize no other representation besides the union as a condition of the agreement. This will often go along with an agreement that all employees hired must join the union.

    3. That’s the problem for each job there is only one union which creates the monopoly. Why another union isn’t allowed to set up shop to compete for the same workers seems to screw the workers. If one union was slacking, the workers could join one of the other unions that got a better deal or had lower dues but that doesn’t happen because in order to have the job you must be a slave for the union. There’s nothing inherently wrong with unions other than the monopoly power each is given over a particular job. Again, the market isn’t allowed to work.

      1. Your major premise, that the unions are there to serve the workers, is incorrect.

      2. I have to agree with this. And to your other, (at this point in time,) replier: That’s what happens when you hold a monopoly; You do whatever you want, not what the customer wants you to do.

        I have nothing against unions. Unions, when operated correctly, provide a valuable service to the Little Guy. They give the many, but individually weak, more leverage against the few, but individually powerful. Unions, operated for their own ends, are, what’s that term again? merely “rent seekers” and should be routed around just like any other obstacle to prosperity.
        There’s nothing like a little good open competition to keep people honest.

  5. Of course, nothing in the Janus ruling prohibits public sector employees from bargaining collectively.

    Depriving union-friendly politicians of compelled donations is tantamount to union busting.

    1. This guy is kinda giving away the game, isn’t he? If the government is automatically funding the union to represent government workers, then in what way isn’t the union just another arm of that government? It’s the government negotiating with itself. Since that’s really a silly reason for unions to exist, then I can’t help but find it more likely that the move is indeed to allow the politicians to siphon of tax dollars for their campaigns through “donations.” Unions don’t make much sense these days and government unions really have no right to exist. How can’t they see that they are pushing way too far and even normies can see that the push for public sector unions is nothing more than fleecing the tax payer?

      1. That does kinda make the necessity of unions pointless. I wonder if somebody can charge him with money laundering and a series of campaign finance violations.

      2. So, would you argue that a state-funded public legal defender for someone charged with a criminal offence is actually on the side of the prosecutor? Are you that cynical? Learn the difference between cynicism and scepticism.

        1. False equivalence much?

  6. Fine with me.

    Yes, public sector union negotiates with government over tax dollars. Sounds like we cut out the middle man.

    1. What middle man is cut out? The union is a defacto part of government that essentially negotiates with itself. The union is still the middle man, but this proposal makes it so there is even less restraint in the union stealing taxpayer money. Essentially this is just taxpayers paying extra so that government employees can decide that they get to pay themselves more money and larger benefit packages. Corrupt as all hell.

      1. What middle man is cut out?

        The worker.

      2. If you believe that trades unions are part of government, you have either never learned, or forgotten, the long and brutal struggle to obtain legal collective bargaining for workers. The police and the state in the USA and in the UK did everything they could to beat and murder trade unionists into submission. You are part of that state oppression. You are on the government’s side against the poor.

        1. He was talking about public sector unions. They negotiate wage increases with politicians for money collected from taxpayers. That’s different from unions in private industry.

  7. The idea that workers have a right to collectively bargain seems to be taken as a worker has no right to refuse to be part of the collective. Which means the individual actually does not have a right.

    So a Democrat wants a significant contributor to the Democrat Party to be subsidized by the government.

    There is no conflict of interest there, right?

    1. No shame either.

  8. In other words, taxpayers will pick up the tab for unions’ political activities.

    So… just like today?

  9. Funny that public unions are dying a death of a dozen cuts.

    Public employees tend to vote Democrat, so it figures that Congressmen are wasting taxpayer money to grab more taxpayer money.

    If Public employees want to unionize, let them pay for it.

  10. Gottfried’s proposal seems to put the interests of his campaign money ahead of the interest of its members.


  11. And I’m sure that any New Yorker would be shocked, shocked if any of these juicy taxpayer dollars ever wound up in the hands of Democrat politicians, right?

    God, what a cesspool.

  12. What a scumbag!

  13. This seems illegal. The govt would be paying the union to negotiate against it?

    1. Can anything be illegal unless the government says it is?

      I suspect it will take a constitutional amendment to kill the public employee unions before they choke the life out of the states.

      1. I don’t see how a taxpayer cannot have standing to sue for the government to fund a party negotiating against itself. It seems unbelievably illegal on its face.

        Then again, the EPA worked with environmental groups for them to make big money suing the EPA.

    2. Clearly, you don’t understand how democracy works. In a civilised society – i.e., one in which we are not all desperately competing against each other for every last penny – it is entirely right that public funds be used in this way. it’s the same principle that provides publicly-funded legal defence for people charged with criminal offences. Or would you prefer that only the rich should have a defence against the state?

      1. You are so far off the target, it’s sad.

  14. . . . but New York state?in our Constitution and law?has long recognized that public employees have the right to collectively bargain,” Gottfried tells the paper.

    The real question is – do they recognize a right to *individual bargaining*.

    I’d normally say you’d have to as a collective is a group of individuals and the individuals exist prior to, and independent of, the collective. And if they don’t, how large does your group have to be before it counts? 2 people? 20? 200? 2000? And wherever that line is drawn, what the rationale for drawing it there instead of somewhere else is.

  15. This is all so confusing. Can’t we just hand all our money to the government and the union, and let them work it out? I’m sure they’ll do the right thing.

  16. Want to get rid of unions?
    Outlaw union political contributions.
    End of problem.

    1. Given how much the democrats bitch about Citizens United, they shouldn’t have a probably barring unions from donating money, right?

      1. They pretend that political donations are monopoly money, in that you can ban the green money, but not the yellow. Funny how they didn’t give a damn about Obama’s illegal international fund, where the money and donors could not be tracked…

  17. My chance to work in a union shop came 53 years ago. A summer job in a factory putting cardboard boxes together and filling them with greeting cards. It too about 2 minutes before I said, “no thanks,” and left. Oh and NY state sucks, too. I was born there, but travel to London now to see “Broadway”shows. The market place at work in my life!

  18. Reading this, I am reminded of another article I read on having someone else negotiate for you, without having a hand in the negotiations.
    Kristine Rusch on literary agents

    When the negotiator doesn’t have to have your best interests at heart while negotiating “for” you, he soon doesn’t. He has his own interests at heart, exclusively.

  19. The state is going to be paying for the collective bargaining costs? So why do I need to pay the Union? Unions will lose more membership and dues.

  20. This is why unions need to be made illegal and declare that advocating for unions is outside the 1st Amendment’s protection and will not be tolerated.

    1. I wasn’t aware that, even in the era of Trump’s fascism, that people such as yourself existed. I would go a long way to ensure your ideas never succeed.

      “When Hitler came to power in January 1933, he saw trade unions as exercising more power over the workers than he could. Therefore, trade unions were seen as a challenge to be dispensed with. Hitler knew that he needed the workers to be on his side but he could not allow trade unions to exert the potential power they had. Therefore, trade unions were banned in Nazi Germany and the state took over the role of looking after the working class.”

      1. Ugh, Trump is literally Hitler, we get it. But the overall point of this discussion, you do not.

      2. We get it, national socialists and Bolsheviks are totalitarian collectivists, just slightly different totalitarian collectivists.

  21. The elected politician accepting the public government employee union’s campaign donation money and other support is not forfeiting any of the politician’s money to pay for union employee’s increased pay and benefits, he is giving away the taxpayers money to the government union members.

    The politician is giving away the taxpayer’s money to help him collect future political contributions for his personal political re-election expenses from the government employee’s unions.

    Private sector union and non-union employees negotiate with business owners to get more of the business owner’s money into the employee’s pockets, and this is OK by me.

    How many of the wealth-consuming government bureaucrats and other government jobs can the wealth creating taxpayers afford to support, before the resulting higher taxes drive the taxable wealth creating businesses and their non-government jobs away to another city, state or even to some foreign country?

    When you count the government employee holidays, vacations, job security, retirement benefits, medical care benefits, etc. in addition to the payroll, the taxpayers are paying city employees a total of many times the pay scales that non-government employees are getting!

    How much can the taxpayers afford to have confiscated from the taxpayers in the form of taxes to pay for all of the salaries and benefits for all of these government employees?

    1. How much can the taxpayers afford to have confiscated from the taxpayers in the form of taxes to pay for all of the salaries and benefits for all of these government employees?

      The financial and business problems in most all local governments are a result of continued conflicts of interest associated with the incestuous relationships between the elected politicians running the local governments and the unions representing the tax-supported employees, various no-bid contracts awarded to political contributors, Legal Service contracts, CPA service contracts, Architect & Engineer contracts, Real Estate agent contracts, Building Maintenance contracts, and other no-bid contracts which have been going on for many years at all levels of government.

      These incestuous relationships between the government politicians/bureaucrats running the various local governments, local government contractors, and the government employee unions have been going on for many years.

      Why should current taxpayers honor union contracts that were obtained in the past by the public employee unions who influenced previous public officials (with political contributions) to obligate current taxpayers to pay for their extravagant wages and benefits!

    2. “Finally, what about government? A common mantra in the United States is that “government does not create wealth, people do.” We shall hear it again and again in the Congressional campaigns this fall. What are we to make of that assertion?

      In some sense, of course, the mantra is true. Government per se is just an inert set of legal contracts, as is any business. Thus, one should really say: “Government and business do not create wealth. The people working in them do.”

      If anyone doubts that the people working in government do not create wealth, let them imagine a society without a well-functioning government. Afghanistan immediately comes to mind.

      Governments everywhere in modern societies provide the legal and much of the physical infrastructure on which private production and commerce thrive. Imagine a world in which private contracts can be adjudicated and enforced only by private thugs rather than in the civil courts.

      Just as sports contests could not be fairly conducted without a strict set of rules and referees with power, so private markets could not thrive without regulations and regulators with power. A truly laissez-faire market economy would be apt to be a mess, as what Wall Street made of its own business in recent years reminds us.”

      1. Proving you’re a mental midget over and over is a bad look for you.

      2. As somebody who is not an anarchist, I agree that government needs to exist to provide a VERY BASIC framework for laws etc. However the size and scope of that is HIGHLY variable.

        For instance the USA did just fine when we had a FedGov that was only spending about 3% of GDP, versus 20%+.


        So the question is, would we be better off if everybody had their federal taxes cut by 3/4 and we went back to saaay 5%? Or perhaps merely cut in half and spending 10%?

        I think so. There’s plenty of framework for society to build on with that, but not enough money to micro manage and fuck everything else up.

  22. “All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service.

    It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management.

    The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations.

    The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress.

    Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

    Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees.

    1. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount.

      Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied.

      Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable.”

      President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Letter on the Resolution of Federation of Federal Employees Against Strikes in Federal Service, signed August 16, 1937″

  23. I get it that you all here hate unions because they take a bit of money from some people’s pay. Kind of like taxes – you know, the idea that we should look out for each other, which you all seem to hate too. And government, too. So who is a worker supposed to look to when his or her employer is paying below the minimum, or sexually harassing, or doing all the myriad things that bosses have been doing for hundreds of years and getting away with when there’s no-one to stop them?

    The workers back in the 18th and 19th centuries who literally died to get collective bargaining and organising going, they might just have been on to something.

    Perhaps we’d be better off without voting, too. Costs a bit out of our wages to run an election. Leave it to the rich people. They must know better than the poor – ‘cos it takes brains to get rich, doesn’t it? Just ask Mr Trump.

    1. Hear the “Whoooosh!”?
      That was the point of this discussion flying well over your head.

  24. What’s so surprising here? Rep. Gottfried is a Democrat and Democrats are the largest recipients of union political contributions. Gottfried’s proposed legislation will transfet the cost of public sector labor bargaining from the union to the taxpayers.

  25. I enjoyed the framing of the article’s photograph, especially the top right corner.

  26. “Nom, nom, nom, nom…T is for taxes and taxes is for me.” The public unions are a less lovable, and far more single minded, Cookie Monster.

  27. Smug anti-union libertarians, be grateful for your rights, fought for over many years by trade unionists.

    “Cybil Wilson has worked in one of Kerala’s big, shiny, brightly-lit sari shops for 10 years.

    Her salary at the shop, in Trivandrum, has been consistently low but it is the pain and swelling in her legs that troubles her the most. Her employer forbids Wilson, and the other 120 female sales assistants working across the four floors, from sitting down during a 12-14 hour shift.

    “We can’t use the lifts either. All customers pay on the ground floor for their purchases and we have to accompany them so we are up and down the stairs all day. A few times, when we did use the lift, customers complained about having to share it with us,” said Wilson.

    Now the Kerala government has announced it will amend its labour laws to include a clause obliging employers to let women sit ? the result of a fight by a women’s union for “irippu samara” (the right to sit in Malayalam) for these unrepresented shop workers.”

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.