Democrats have found so many reasons to whine lately that you very well might have missed some important news. In the midst of immigration reform, a new SCOTUS pick and continued success with denuclearization talks on the Korean Peninsula, the Supreme Court just massively changed the rules for labor unions.
Several cases have been waiting a while for a new ruling, and the end result has upended a long liberal tradition. In short, local and state governments can no longer require workers to pay union dues.
The full story is a little complicated and has giant implications, so we’re going to really examine the issue and take a deep look at how we got here and where it will take us next.
Before Kennedy announced his retirement and caused a tidal wave of hissy fits across the left, the Supreme Court made an important ruling regarding unions. The case was Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31. In it, an Illinois worker challenged the law of the land that required him to pay dues to a union he didn’t join.
The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Janis, and they effectively made “right to work” the law of the land in every state. Before the ruling, 28 different states (including most of the south) already had laws in place that prevented workers from having to pay union dues. After the ruling, the remaining 22 will be in roughly the same position. After deliberation, the Supreme Court made their decision on the basis that compulsory dues were a violation of free speech. How they came to that decision will require a bit of back story.
Understanding the Case
Here’s the gist of the actual case that led to this ruling. The Illinois governor tried to overturn laws that forced all workers in some industries to pay union fees.
The justification is that the unions bargain on behalf of non-members, so those non-members should share the financial burden. Keep in mind that more than half the country has considered this to be codswallop from the beginning.
When the Illinois governor was defeated in court, the case was restarted with Mark Janus and a few others. As an individual worker, he argued that forcing him to pay dues was forcing him to support speech promoted by the union.
For those who aren’t familiar, unions have long used their collective bargaining and forced membership fees to pay for a large number of political maneuvers. These range from traditional lobbying to outright bribing local officials.
The union that used government muscle to force Janus to pay dues esteemed political motivations that were counter to his belief structure. The union argued that Janus’s dues only went to operations and not to political posturing, but that’s like a church saying they don’t use tithes to pay for preaching the word of God.
The Supreme Court saw through this nonsense and made the right move. It is now illegal to force a worker to pay into an organization that he or she finds unsatisfactory.
What Will Change
On paper, this might look small. All the Court did was make it so every American can choose their voluntary level of participation in labor unions. It’s a very basic ruling for more freedom, and that’s typically a good thing. Despite the simplicity, this decision bares major long-term impacts on how labor unions operate.
Virtually everyone with an opinion agrees that labor unions in the states affected will likely lose participation and overall funding. That can impact their political clout and ability to do many of the things unions do (many of which are more than a little shady and corrupt).
In general, this is forcing unions into a competitive market. That has never existed before in America (for unions, at least). Labor unions have been the strongest force for socialism for close to a hundred years.
Many of them are ill-equipped to compete for the loyalty of their members. Without state governments bullying citizens into compulsory payments, at least some of these major unions will collapse. That won’t mean much at all for the majority of workers and laborers across the country, but it will change some important political dynamics.
Why Democrats Are So Upset
If you believe at all in capitalism, you’re happy with this result. Democrats are not. They have long championed themselves as the party of labor unions and the working class. That’s half true.
Labor unions have heavily favored Democratic politics for the last 60 years. A blow to union money is effectively a blow to Democratic funding. Campaign donations, lobbying perks and a whole slew of cash just might disappear from the party.
It’s easy to understand why they’re so upset. Even while they attack NRA spending in Washington, labor unions make up the single largest lobbying group in terms of dollars spent. They also provide many millions to the Super PACs that fund elite Democrats.
The Supreme Court just forced the entire party one step closer to an even playing field… Of course, they’re angry!
This is an exciting change for freedom, capitalism, conservatives and the country as a whole. Union participation has been in decline for decades, and now workers actually have a choice in the matter. But, none of this spells ultimate doom for unions or the Democrats.
Unions will have to adapt, but you can reasonably assume that at least some of them will. Even if their overall income drops, it won’t go to zero. Plenty of Americans still believe in their unions and will continue to pay on blind faith alone. It’s a mentality that goes hand in hand with donating to Democratic candidates.
The final point of all of this is to enjoy yet another win (partially made possible by Trump’s first SCOTUS pick) without growing complacent. Every day we get more information that suggests this next midterm election may be one of the most important in American history. If we don’t want the winning to stop, we have to paint Congress red in November.