How Have Unions Responded Since Janus?

It’s a lousy time to be a government union in just about any state. But in Oregon, where Freedom Foundation canvassers are knocking on members’ doors, showing up at their offices and showering them with e-mails, mailers and myriad other messages all designed to inform workers about rights their union would prefer to suppress, it’s particularly bad.

Just ask SEIU 503, which has hemorrhaged more than 20 percent of its membership since the U.S. Supreme Court last summer in Janus v. AFSCME outlawed mandatory dues or agency fees in the public workplace.

A huge percentage of the defections were the direct result of the Freedom Foundation’s outreach strategy, but we can’t take all the credit. SEIU helped enormously by prioritizing a radically liberal political agenda over the work-related concerns of its members.

Union leaders still fulminate about their commitment to the workers they presume to represent, but that lie was exposed years ago. These days, unions in general and government unions in particular function as little more than a money-laundering operation that confiscates billions of dollars in dues from workers and funnels it to candidates and causes that all too often have nothing whatever to do with wages, benefits or working conditions.

Many, if not most, of the workers resent this arrangement tremendously, which explains why so many of them abandon the union the instant they discover they can. Which, in turn, also explains why the unions are working night and day to keep it from happening.

A few examples of the unions’ desperation:

  • Personal attacks. They smear our staff, our board and even our canvassers every day. They spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on these attacks in a vain attempt to intimidate us. But their antics only validate our efforts and galvanize our team.
  • Frivolous lawsuits. They file lawsuits in an attempt to drain our time and resources. The litigation we were involved in last year with the city of Portland is a prime example.
  • Preventing people from leaving. The unions hatch countless schemes to hinder members already determined to leave and discourage those on the fence. The most recent example is the deceptive fine print included in union membership cards that allows employees to end their union membership but forces them to continue paying dues.
  • Rewriting laws. When the courts rule against the unions, they simply order their hired guns in the Legislature to change the laws they break. HB-2643, currently being debated by Oregon lawmakers, illustrates the point perfectly. If passed, the measure would deny workers the very right enumerated under Janus to opt out of union dues by empowering the state to pay the unions directly — after first reducing the employee’s salary by a corresponding amount.
  • Lying to their members. Unions spread lies in a fear campaign to their membership to try and prevent them from listening to the Freedom Foundation’s message. They often claim we’re anti-worker or doing the dirty work of some faceless, out-of-state cabal.

All of these are simply postponing the inevitable. There should only be one response to Janus and our campaign, and that’s for the unions to clean up their act.

No worker should ever be forced to surrender a portion of his or her paycheck in return for representation they don’t want or to fund political ideas they don’t agree with.

Private-sector companies cannot exist unless the product or service they provide is valued by enough consumers to make the enterprise economically viable. That doesn’t seem like an unreasonably high bar for unions to clear.

But because they know they can’t, union leaders will resort to any despicable means to maintain the current corrupt status quo.

Aaron Withe is the Oregon Director at the Freedom Foundation. He leads the Oregon team in their mission to holding governments and government unions accountable to citizens and removing the stronghold that the unions have on the political cycle.