Several weeks ago this column detailed the issues and likely outcome of Janus v. AFSCME currently pending before the United States Supreme Court. I noted it was basically a challenge to whether mandatory funding of unions by public employees violated dissident employees’ First Amendment Rights – free speech (including the right to disassociate from others speech) and freedom of association (including the right to disassociate from others with whom you may disagree). I noted that the Supreme Court was more than likely to come down on the side of the dissidents which, in turn, can cause a significant erosion of financial support for the public employee unions. That reduction in financial support will fall harshly on the Democrat Party which is, in many states such as Oregon, the financial arm of the Democrat Party.The public employee unions are already preparing for the worst. The largest of these unions, the National Education Association (NEA), the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State County (AFSCME) have already developed contingency plans to deal with the expected reduction in membership and the corresponding reduction in financing. They will not go quietly and you can even expect in states like Oregon where they dominate the political landscape that they will have Democrats introduce and pass legislation that seeks to ignore the First Amendment or otherwise continue the practice of taxpayer funds being diverted to Democrat candidates and issues.
The question is less what the public employee unions will do and more what the Republicans will do to maximize the effect of the expected Supreme Court decisions. While the public employee unions and Democrats have been developing strategies and contingency plans ever since the initial issues was presented in Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association back in 2014, I doubt there has been a single significant conversation among Republicans or the taxpaying business community as to what to do as a result of the expected decision.
Oregon is dominated by Liberal/Progressives – mostly centered in the Portland/Multnomah County and branching out from there to Washington and Clackamas counties. With the exception of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson (R) they dominate every other statewide office, six out of seven congressional offices, and both houses of the state legislature with near super majorities. The Republican Party is basically a courtesy entourage giving the impression of a two-party state but without cohesion, a common agenda, or a realistic communications capability. And yet despite that Mr. Richardson became Secretary of State and Rep. Nate Buehler (R-Bend) is likely to become Oregon’s next governor. (Both instances speak as much to the personal disdain that Oregonians hold for Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian (D-Beaverton) and current Gov. Kate Brown (D-Portland) as they do for the abilities of Mr. Richardson and Dr. Buehler.)
The Oregon business community has failed to mount any sustained political agenda for decades. For some it is more important to have their picture taken with the governor than to protect their businesses from the tax and spend policies of the Democrats and the excesses of the public employee unions. Waiting for leadership on these issues from the Oregon business community is the modern day equivalent of Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot.
Let me suggest the beginnings of a plan.
1. Request the same data base that state and local governments have developed for the public employee unions showing each members name, address, current employment position and the hourly, weekly or monthly deductions for union dues or assessments. In all probability the state and local governments which are dominated by Democrats will resist providing that information and lawsuits compelling them to do so will be necessary.
2. Develop a communications plan, including direct mail, social media communications and public gatherings to educate and inform public employees about their rights and alternatives. Bring security and media capabilities to such media to minimize attempts by the unions to intimidate participants.
3. Use the same contact information for education and communications on political issues.
4. Develop legislation that prohibits state and local governments to use government resources to collect, hold and remit dues and assessments from public employees for the unions.
5. Develop legislation that prohibits paying public employees to work on behalf of the unions. This is a bigger problem that you realize.
6. Create a fund to represent dissident public employees who become subject to reprisals by the unions.
This is hardly a complete list but it is a beginning. The point is that change is not self-actualizing. The Supreme Court’s decision in Janus is simply a door opening – someone has to then walk through it. The worst thing that can happen is to do nothing proving again the Oregon business community and the Republicans have ceded political dominance to the unions and the Democrats.
In the recent words of advice by Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) currently running for the United States Senate:
”Grow a pair of ovaries and get the job done.”