The U.S. Supreme Court has determined it will hear a case that, depending upon the Court’s majority finding, could have a very significant effect on unions which represent government employees. In this case, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) which requires that all workers within its various contracts must be dues-paying members is defending that position against a member, Mark Janus.
Janus is employed at the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services and is required to pay dues whether or not he is a member of AFSCME. The U. S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear this case, and given the conservative bent of this court, there is an apparent likelihood that AFSCME could lose this case. This case is monumental from the unions’ perspective since AFSCME is not the only such union arrangement. These ‘fees’ are known as “fair share” fees since the person actually benefits from the agreement negotiated by the union even though not a member of the union. These fair share fees have been held legal for decades.
If the U.S. Supreme Court, as expected, rules against these contractual requirements, the entire labor union world is likely to feel the impact. The impact could literally be the death knell for many such organizations that are heavily dependent upon the current interpretation.
There are already 28 “right-to-work” states and this case, if decided as thought it may well be, will impact the rest of the states where there are an estimated 5 million public sector employees. Some of those unions that could be impacted will be able to survive but others may well find that they will simply cease to have the funding necessary to continue to exist.
Neil Gorsuch represents the key vote in this case, as he has in other cases since he brought the Supreme Court to be a current conservative majority court. The significance of that one appointment is showcased in this prospective decision. The significance of a conservative majority in Congress and the White House becomes better-understood when such cases emerge and a conservative majority hears the cases.
The failure of Congress to approve the appointment of Merrick Garland demonstrates the importance of the Republican/Conservative majority in Congress, as well as the importance of the potentially-renegade group of Conservatives that try to gain even better deals at the risk of getting no deal.
This behind-the-scenes view also shows the critical importance of a Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) as well as the potential torpedoing impact of the free-spirited conservative sector of the Republican House.
It also shows why ‘suddenly’ many large unions are paying more attention to moderate members who likely would represent lost votes if the Court decides this case as expected. The big unions have taken much of their membership for granted since they didn’t have any real power. If they wanted the jobs in an organized facility, they paid the dues extracted by the unions.
Union membership today is roughly 10.7 percent of U.S. workers. That is about half of the number that was members in 1983. And it is public sector membership that has served the union movement well since it has propped up membership numbers. The rate of union membership in government workers is some 34+% today compared to just 6.5% of workers in the private sector.
The really big part of this whole picture is that union membership favors the Democrats while Republicans benefit from reduced union membership. A recent study has indicated that the reduced union membership has cut the Democrat share of the votes cast nationally by 3.5%. Fewer Dems in office impacts unions unfavorably. So the trend feeds upon itself to the detriment of both unions and Democrats.
This situation will require a complete re-thinking by both Democrats and union leaders if it is to be stemmed before it does even more serious damage to the Democrat brand. Add to this phenomenon a President by the name of Donald Trump who could be instrumental in the furtherance of the Democrats’ slide down the hillside, and you begin to better appreciate the hair-on-fire approach of the Dems on Capitol Hill.
The Dems recognize that their brand is also in trouble, and they know they need to somehow regain their numeric superiority and do so quickly. This expected decision at the U.S. Supreme Court level can only exacerbate the problem felt by the Dems.
Movements such as this, whether organized or simply self-propagating, can be either beneficial or detrimental. Today, we see the conservatives making gains at expense of the liberals. It is important that this continues since 3.5% fewer Democrat votes can only translate into better Republican majorities in Congress. And the grassroots efforts underway and paying off already for the conservative movement as a growing sector in the Republican Party is evident.
NOW, it is up to us conservatives to be certain the Republican Party does not languish amidst its newfound good fortune as has been its wont in the past. This is not the time to lay back and celebrate good fortune. It is the time to press the fight more vigorously. The Dems can lament their own bad fortune; us Conservatives need not relax and give them the opportunity to recover.
The fortune of America is at stake. That is not overly dramatic. Conservatism is the driving force, not simply Republicanism. A reduction in unionism is good for conservatism and conservatism is good for the country. Unfortunately for the Dems, they seem to be on the wrong side of this equation, but they did that to themselves.
This is not our fault, but it is our opportunity.