Post-Janus, unions see "mass exodus" of fee payers

We’ve covered a number of lawsuits that have been filed in the wake of Janus v AFSCME, where workers sought to stop paying “agency fees” to unions (a fancy word for dues charged to nonmembers) and in some cases recover past dues that had been collected. But that’s all voluntary, of course. The non-members can keep on paying their money to the unions if they wish. So how many have chosen to stick with the old program? Bloomberg reports this week that virtually none of them have. The number of fee payers has plunged by as much as 90% or more in most cases.

Two major public sector unions lost nearly 210,000 agency fee payers combined in 2018, according to recently filed reports showing the impact of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that prohibits forcing nonmembers to pay for collective bargaining and other nonpolitical expenses.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees saw a 98 percent drop from the prior year, leaving 2,200 agency fee payers. The Service Employees International Union lost 94 percent of their agency fee payers, reducing the number of agency fee payers to 5,800.

The disclosure reports filed with the Labor Department last week provide an early snapshot of ramifications of the high court’s June 2018 ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, which said mandatory agency fees in the public sector violate nonmembers’ First Amendment rights.

Ouch. That’s more than a small bite out of the union budget. The SEIU lost 94% of their fee payers in a single year. It’s enough to hurt a union boss’s feelings.

But what did anyone really expect? If those non-members were fully in support of the unions and didn’t object to kicking in for their political efforts they’d already be members of the union. If they agreed with all of the blatantly partisan political shenanigans the unions are constantly up to, they likely wouldn’t have minded kicking in toward the cause. Anyone shocked by these numbers really needs to pull their heads out of the sand.

Here’s another tidbit that likely feeds into the same momentum we’ve been seeing. A report from earlier this year revealed that union membership in the United States hit record lows in 2018. (CBS News)

Union membership in the U.S. continues to shrink, showing that organized labor still faces headwinds despite some recent victories.

Among American workers, participation in a union fell to 10.5 percent last year, from 10.7 percent in 2017 and 2016, with all demographic groups seeing a decline in membership. The drop continues a trend that except for a pause during the 2008 financial crisis, has been ongoing since the 1980s, when the share of organized labor was roughly double what it is today.

Only 6.4% of private sector workers were in unions by the end of 2018. The one place they actually made gains was among teachers in the public sector. (They added more than 100,000 members in 2018. Aside from that, membership is down across the board.

It would appear that people are finally catching on. In some ways that’s sad because the original purpose of the labor unions was a fairly noble one. And if they focused all their efforts on policies that directly benefit the lives and conditions of workers, they’d probably have a stronger membership today. But as long as they want to spend most of their energy and resources on being an unofficial arm of the Democratic Party, they’ll keep turning people off.

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