I’ve made no bones about my antipathy toward public sector unionism, a fundamentally flawed concept that never should have been. And I remain a bit miffed at the “D” I was given on the issue by a socialist, if not anarcho-syndicalist, professor in college. It’s not that unions don’t have their virtues or accomplish good things for their members, but that public sector unions are conceptually flawed.
If oral argument in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is any indication, the Supreme Court is about to suck the lifeblood out of public sector unions. Steven Greenberg calls this “a ticking time bomb.”
A decision for the plaintiffs in Friedrichs would tell the nation’s 6.2 million unionized state, city, county and school district employees that they can enjoy the benefits offered by their unions without having to pay for them. By some estimates, between 1 million and 2 million workers could be expected to stop paying union fees, at a cost to public-sector unions of $500 million to $1 billion a year.
Since public sector employees can’t be compelled to become union members, they can, per the Supreme Court’s decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Ed., be compelled to pay agency fees, justified as a fee for the service of negotiating a contract on behalf of non-union members of the collective bargaining unit. Continue reading