Research & Commentary: New York Seeks to Bypass Janus – and Unions Stand to Benefit

Published July 30, 2018

The recent decision in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees has brought major changes to how state workers interact with public-sector unions. By requiring opt-in union membership for new state employees, the Janus decision has returned the power of choice to workers, but public unions in several states have already begun to push for new laws that would either strengthen unions’ hold on state workers or make it tougher for them to opt out without penalties.

In New York State, lawmakers are considering several proposals that would undermine state workers’ rights. The first would terminate the “opt out” clause and only allow workers to withdraw their dues “in accordance with the terms of the signed authorization.” The Empire Center, a nonpartisan think tank headquartered in Albany, New York, warns the proposed bill could force state workers to commit financial support to a union for up to 11 months. Under current New York law, government workers who voluntarily join a union are allowed to withdraw from having to pay the union dues deduction “at any time” by notifying their employer.

Janus benefits state workers by keeping their hard-earned dollars in their own pockets. In the wake of the Janus decision, non-union public workers could save around $53 million per year in agency fees, according to a report by the Empire Center. Further, union members choosing to opt out could save more than $110 million. (If a worker chooses to join a union and pay the required dues, he or she will still be allowed to do so.)

One proposal introduced by New York State Assemblyman Richard Gottfried (D-Manhattan) would allow unions to include the costs of collective bargaining in their government contracts. This would essentially shift the cost of union operations from union members to taxpayers. According to, taxpayer monies that were previously set aside for union member raises would be given directly to the union by folding the unions’ collective bargaining costs into their contracts, with the employees receiving reduced raises.

Funding unions in this manner also means funding their political activities. Even if a state supports collective bargaining, it is important to remember that when public unions bargain with the government, which includes officials to whom they give political support, they are engaging in an inherently political activity.

Ken Girardin, a policy analyst at the Empire Center, told that the proposed shift could permanently alter future budgets. “A percentage of future raises would be designated as collective bargaining expenses and permanently embedded in base salaries on a recurring, permanent basis,” Girardin wrote. Girardin also told the New York Post the cost incurred by the employee could be as high as $600 per year.

Thankfully, many states are choosing not to follow New York’s anti-worker lead. For instance, Missouri has taken several steps toward making it easier for public and private workers to opt out of union membership. A law passed in June requires unionized government employees to vote every three years whether they want their union to continue to represent them. It would also require all state workers to decide each year if they want union dues to be deducted from their earnings. This is a reform referred to by supporters as “paycheck protection.”

It is crucial that all new state employees know their full range of options when they begin employment. State lawmakers should make certain public employees are notified when they are hired of their right to choose whether to join a union and how they control their wages.

The following documents examine the union dues policies, the Janus case and other right-to-work issues in greater detail.

The Janus Stakes
Ken Girardin of the Empire Center for Public Policy examines the potential effects of a ruling in favor of Janus in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. “As shown in this report, if the Supreme Court sides with the plaintiff in Janus, New York state government and New York City municipal employees who have already indicated they would rather not belong to unions would save $53 million a year in dues-like fees. Extrapolating to other levels of local government, school districts and public authorities, the immediate savings for all New York public-sector workers opting out of union membership could come to more than $110 million—and could grow from there,” wrote Girardin.

Supreme Court Hears Case on Forced Union Dues
Leo Pusateri writes in Budget & Tax News about the Janus v. AFSCME case and how it could affect state workers and public sector unions.

Lawmakers Keep Moving Union Bills to Work Around U.S. Supreme Court Decisions
Erin Shannon of the Washington Policy Center examines legislative efforts in Washington State to circumvent a ruling in favor of worker rights in the Janus v. AFSCME case.

The Janus Case Could Mean the Restoration of Government Workers’ Constitutional Right to Free Speech
Mailee Smith of the Illinois Policy Institute examines the possible outcomes of the Janus v. AFSCME case, what each outcome means, and what would and would not change under the potential rulings the Supreme Court could hand down.

The Myth of Public-Sector Unions’ ‘Free Rider’ Problem
Trevor Burrus and Reilly Stephens examine the common “free rider” arguments against right to work and discuss how unions misread federal law. Burrus and Stephens say unions might actually become more efficient as members-only organizations.

The Janus Case and the Future of Teachers Unions
Nat Malkus of the American Enterprise Institute discusses the possible future effects on teachers unions of a pro-Janus ruling.

Key Exchanges from Major Union Case at the Supreme Court
Elizabeth Slattery of The Heritage Foundation outlines several arguments made by both sides of the Janus case, the questions asked by the justices, and what these arguments will mean for the eventual decision.

Public-Sector Unions Anticipate a Loss before the Supreme Court
Patrick Wright writes in The Hill unions are anticipating a loss in Janus v. AFSCME and discusses how they are preparing for a new reality in a post-Janus America.

Did Right-to-Work Laws Impact Income Inequality? Evidence from U.S. States Using the Synthetic Control Method
Jeffrey Jordan, Aparna Mathur, Abdul Manasib, and Devesh Roy of the American Enterprise Institute examine right-to-work laws in four states—Idaho, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas—and they found right-to-work laws have no impact on economic inequality.

Right-to-Work Laws: Liberty, Prosperity, and Quality of Life
Economist Richard Vedder documents the positive impact of right-to-work laws. He concludes, “Americans generally prefer freedom to coercion, high incomes to low ones, and individual decision making to collective resolution of issues. For these reasons, they generally do not like laws that constrain their labor market behavior and force them to join collectives of other workers to negotiate their wages and working conditions.”


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