Across the country, public school teachers are returning to the classroom. But this year there is something different: no teacher will be compelled to pay union fees. After the Supreme Court’s June ruling in Janus v. Afscme, teachers in every state will have the free speech right to decide for themselves whether or not they want to join their union. With millions of dollars on the line, unions aren’t thrilled at the prospect of losing members. They have even accused the Supreme Court of “weaponizing” the First Amendment. But the unions knew Janus was coming for a long time, and now they are faced with two paths forward in a post-Janus landscape.
The first option is to seek more government protection. Union’s may no longer be able to compel fees directly from unwilling employees, but they can still obtain some generous perks. Maryland and California, for instance, have introduced measure that will allow unions to pitch the benefits of membership to all new employees. A bill introduced in Hawaii would take things even further by having the government directly fund the union for the amount it would have raised in dues every year.
While the Hawaii proposal would guarantee the union their desired revenues in a way that bypasses the constitutional issues raised in Janus, it would still leave the unions with many of the problems that have afflicted them over the last several decades. Because the unions have relied on the state to maintain their cash flow, they haven’t had to devote as much resources to fostering membership and advocating for their core issues. Instead, public sector unions were free to devote significant resources to national politics.For instance, in 2016, AFSCME spent a mere $36 million representing workers. In the same year, they spent $55 million on politics.