The Janus Decision is Making Waves
In Janus vs AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court held in a 5-4 ruling that it was unconstitutional for public sector unions to force workers to pay agency fees as a requirement for employment. Justice Neil Gorsuch provided the decision necessary to swing the court. Agency fees were deemed to be a type of compelled speech because the work that public sector unions participate in is inherently political. Therefore, citizens cannot be forced to subsidize speech that violates their conscience.
This decision is having a huge impact and the New York State Comptroller has complied to the changes. Prior to the Janus ruling, 67.4% of public employees in New York were part of a union. Due to the lobbying power gained from the funds that are collected from union members and employees forced to pay agency fees, this has resulted in a more expensive government.
According to a study published by the Empire Center, $860 million was collected in Union dues between the years 2013- 2016. During that time, the Unions spent $52 million on state and local elections. The person who pays agency fees, therefore, is indirectly supporting political positions that they may not hold. Before the Janus decision, if they were to be employed at that entity, they were not given the right to opt in or opt out from paying agency fees.
According to a statement from Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, 31,000 New Yorker’s were immediately affected by the Janus Decision. Within the SUNY and CUNY systems alone $12 million in agency fees were collected each year. In total this could save public sector employees $110 million annually.
With the option to either opt in or opt out of public sector unions, this will undoubtedly cause unions to lose some power and political influence. The extent to which this is so is still undecided. The NYS government has been doing everything in its power to limit the impact the Janus decision will have. Governor Cuomo signed an executive order making eliminating the ability to use FOIL to get information involving the employees of state agencies. The state has also passed a law that required government employers to hand over employee contact information to the union, allow them to meet with the employee during work hours, and deny union perks, such as health insurance, to people who do not sign up for the union. The governor has been quoted as saying, “it is the union movement that drives the Democratic party.”