The Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting for public-sector right-to-work laws, is preparing to launch a multi-state campaign to inform public union employees of their right to work free of forced union fees.
A U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, a labor case potentially impacting millions of union fee-payers, could come as soon as Monday, June 18. The case reconsiders a 1977 Supreme Court ruling that found public employees can be forced to pay an “agency” fee to a union for negotiating terms of employment for members and non-members alike.
The Janus case argues that compulsory dues violate an individual’s right to free speech because negotiating with the government is a political act negotiating the wages, benefits and working conditions of government employees. The court is expected to overturn the 1977 ruling and end mandatory service fees to unions. (RELATED: The Public-Sector Union ‘Stranglehold’ On Workers’ Paychecks Is On The Verge Of Collapse)
If the Supreme Court rules on the Janus case as expected, the Freedom Foundation is ready to fight public-sector unions in California, Oregon and Washington to inform their members and fee payers that they are free to stop paying union dues.
“We’re planning on implementing a full-scale opt-out outreach operation on the West Coast the day after we get the decision from the court,” Freedom Foundation Executive Vice President Brian Minnich told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We are ready to hit the ground running with emails, targeted mail and canvassing door-to-door.”
“Then we are also going to camp outside state government buildings, as well, telling folks they have rights. We’ll do some commercials and social media,” Minnich added. “I mean it will be full-scale to tell these folks that they have rights.”
The foundation will be competing against local and national unions who have started courting their members to convince them that supporting the union is worth the investment. Unions are warning against the “corporate assaults on the freedom to join together in union.”
— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) May 29, 2018
“They are actually being forced to market to their members,” Minnich said. Before mandatory public sector union fees were threatened by the Supreme Court, “government unionism was like shooting fish in a barrel,” he said.
The Freedom Foundation’s game plan for once the ruling drops has been practiced and honed on a smaller scale after a similar 2014 Supreme Court ruling, Harris v. Quinn, stated that compulsory union dues from home health care providers were unconstitutional. The nonprofit has been fighting union interests, mainly in Washington, since then to inform home health care employees of their newly affirmed right.
The Freedom Foundation’s strategy relies heavily on identifying public sector union members through public records requests and getting in contact with as many as possible. After the Janus ruling, the nonprofit plans to inform as many of the union members as possible along the West Coast about their freedom to cut ties with the union.
Unions are taking their own measures, engaging in “lawfare” to keep their membership lists out of the foundation’s grasp, Minnich said. The union’s measures have been largely ineffective, but have cost large sums in court fees for both sides.
“It’s a bullying tactic, it’s intimidation, and they want to see if they can drive you out of business,” Minnich told TheDCNF.
Unions are also attempting to hold on to their current members after the Janus ruling by locking them into longer union contracts that are “irrevocable” usually for around a year. Other union contracts give new signees an “opt-out” window, sometimes as short as 10 days, for union members to opt-out of their new contracts once signed.
Union interests are also lobbying state governments to pass pro-union legislation such as laws that give union representatives time to meet with every new state employee in orientation sessions.
The Janus ruling could potentially devastate public-sector unions and, by extension, the Democratic Party by kneecapping one of its largest donors. Many states have already passed right-to-work laws, implementing in local areas what the Janus ruling would do for the nation.
The laws have made a marked impact on elections, costing Democratic presidential candidates two to five percentage points in the general election in each state. Democratic voter turnout is down and Democratic representation in state legislatures has also dropped, according to the Brookings Institution. (RELATED: Confirmed: 99 Percent Of Union Donations Go To Liberal-Leaning Causes)
Experts at the Freedom Foundation are not sold that the Janus ruling will be a gut-punch to unions that many expect.
“Our feeling is that unless you have a Freedom Foundation that is aggressively telling these folks they have rights to leave the union, I don’t necessarily see the case having the impact some think it will have,” Minnich told TheDCNF.
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