Janus decision undermines teachers’ unions

In a closely watched case, the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited mandatory public-employee labor organization union fees (“Supreme Court Deals Blow to Public-Sector Unions,” The Wall Street Journal, Jun. 27).  It also held that workers must expressly opt into the union before fees can be taken out of their paychecks.

Prior to Janus v. American Federation of State, Country, and Municipal Employees Council 31, teachers who didn’t want to join the union were required to pay agency fees when those fees were used for collective-bargaining.  The ruling was cheered by some as a corrective to the high court’s decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education in 1977.

I’ll restrict my comments to the effects that the decision will have on teachers.  Their unions will continue to exist, but they will be severely undermined.  With the exception of diehards, many teachers will let their membership expire because they will get the same benefits as if they had paid.  These free riders will have it both ways: They will pay nothing to their union but will get full benefits. Teacher union membership in the Los Angeles Unified School District has already declined from 42,000 to 31,000 since 2007.

If those teachers genuinely believe in what they are doing is right, they should refuse to accept whatever benefits their unions provide.  I vividly remember when some teachers at the high school in the Los Angeles Unified School District where I taught for 28 years crossed the picket lines during the three strikes I participated in.  They said they did so because they believed in the “right to work.”  Well, no one was preventing them from working.

As teachers in public schools across the nation continue to be attacked from all sides and their unions are hamstrung, who will want to make a career in the classroom?  It’s a bleak picture.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

3 Replies to “Janus decision undermines teachers’ unions”

  1. The Janus majority decision is, at bottom, driven by the Republican party’s union animus. The Republican party correctly views labor unions as being inherently opposed to the Republican party’s pro-business/pro-affluent economic policies. Whatever weakens labor unions necessarily serves the Republican party’s interests. That’s why the five Republican justices in Janus found that agency-fee agreements violate the employees’ First Amendment rights. There is no rational legal analysis supporting the Janus majority’s reversing of Abood.

    Since at least the 2000 Bush v. Gore SCt decision, the justices have largely voted along party lines when deciding cases that were important to the political parties. In my opinion as an attorney, the Republican justices strayed much farther from the legally-correct analysis in these cases than the Dem justices did. As a result, citizens should no longer view the SCt as an impartial interpreter of the laws and the Constitution but rather should view the SCt as a partisan body divided, like Congress is, between Republicans and Dems. It follows that, when the Senate Republicans refused to give Garland a vote in 2016 and thereby prevented Obama from filling a SCt vacancy occurring during Obama’s term as president, the Senate Republicans committed a political mortal sin that should have condemned them to political hell. But, they seem to have gotten away with it. Very depressing.

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  2. Labor Lawyer: I’m afraid you’re right about the Supreme Court. Politics, rather than jurisprudence, is the basis for its decisions. I fail to understand how anyone’s right to work is infringed by unions. Moreover, if teachers don’t like unions, then they should refuse to accept the benefits unions provide.

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  3. I am disappointed, but not shocked by your responses.
    I feel the discussion should have been comparing union states and right to work states.
    In response to your comments:
    1. Someone by the name of Obama said, “Elections have consequences”. Does that sound familiar?
    2. If Trump is such a pathetic person, how bad must Hillary be?
    3. What percent of union donations go to Democrats?
    4. Let me see if I have this correct. If Garland had been appointed, you would have been thrilled to have five Democrats on the court. So you are not playing games with the court?
    5. Of course you are blaming the Republicans for nominating Hillary. Some people have to look in the mirror.
    6. Again, “Elections have consequences”

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