We’re still awaiting the outcome of Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees at the Supreme Court, but many observers seem to feel that the court is set to hand down a serious blow to labor unions. If they’re right, the days of unions (with the full endorsement of the government) being able to forcibly extract money from the pockets of non-members and use for political speech with which they disagree may be over. Apparently seeing the writing on the wall, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing through legislation which would further empower public sector unions to strongarm workers, preventing them from being exempt from such payments and likely endangering their jobs. (Free Beacon)
New York Democrats passed a bill to shore up public-sector dues collections, limit employees’ ability to cut off the unions representing their workplaces, and “deter the federal government’s attempts to dismantle unions.”
“Too often, and at the hands of this federal administration, we are seeing the labor movement going backwards … our efforts to protect working men and women are moving labor forward, making the workplace fairer and more just than ever before,” Governor Cuomo said in a statement. “We will not let this federal administration silence New York’s working class, we will support every voice in every community and in every industry, and we will do everything in our power to protect the right to achieve the American Dream.”
This legislation doesn’t exactly go overboard in terms of what is specifically being mandated, but it’s clearly designed to make life easier for the unions and harder for workers who don’t wish to join or pay dues. For example, it takes the names of public sector workers and automatically reenrolls them in the union every year whether they signed up or not. Presumably, at least in some cases, the worker can drop out again but it’s a nuisance at best and a way to restart dues collection. The law would also further loosen restrictions on union officials approaching workers at the workplace to attempt some strongarm tactics to influence them.
But as other New Yorkers are already observing, there’s probably both more and less to this story than meets the eye. There’s less in terms of substance, but more by way of the political backstory. Cuomo is in a primary battle with actress Cynthia Nixon and he seems to be taking it far more seriously than the polls would dictate. Still, every time Nixon stakes out a position from the progressive front, Cuomo seems to try to break out a bigger hammer and move to her left.
We saw that when she spoke out in favor of illegal aliens and Cuomo threatened to sue ICE for doing their job. The unions have traditionally supported Cuomo with a lot of cash, but they were also tied in heavily with the New York chapter of the Working Families Party. This year the WFP endorsed Nixon and Cuomo reported flew off the handle. Now he’s probably tossing a bone to the unions to make sure those relationships are mended.
But even if you ignore all of the inside baseball, political wrangling, what Cuomo is attempting to do here is both offensive to workers and free speech advocates while being relatively pointless in the long run. If SCOTUS rules against the unions in Janus they should be able to press to get out of paying this extortion money to the unions. All he can really do is slow down the rate of change with stubborn legal challenges.