The U.S. Supreme Court will soon release its ruling on the viability of public sector unions. In the landmark case Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the court will determine whether forced union dues are an infringement of state and local government workers’ rights to freedom of speech and association.
Proponents of “open shop” or “right-to-work” (RTW) laws are confident the court will overturn Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (DBE), a 1977 Supreme Court decision that upheld the right for public unions to collect “fair share” or “agency fees” from non-union employees. The plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME, Mark Janus, is an Illinois state employee who argued agency fees are a violation of his First Amendment rights, especially given the inherent political nature of public sector collective bargaining.
Although it is illegal to compel union membership, non-union public workers in states without RTW must often fork over agency fees to unions. These fees are used to support union collective bargaining activities and contract enforcements. Currently, state laws mandate all union and non-union public employees are represented in the collective bargaining process by a democratically elected union, which becomes the exclusive bargaining representative.
Opponents of RTW laws argue workers who opt out of union membership should pay a fee, albeit one that is lower than union dues. Furthermore, RTW foes contend non-union employees receive the advantage of union-negotiated collective-bargaining agreements, such as high wages and top-tier benefits.
In a new Research & Commentary, Heartland Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans comments on the ramifications of a ruling in favor of Janus. “In anticipation of the upcoming ruling, many states have passed new laws, either strengthening unions or making it easier for state workers to opt out without penalties,” Glans wrote.
Instead of imposing rules limiting workers’ freedoms, Glans argues, “States can implement paycheck protection laws, and give workers control over their wages. States can also implement an opt-in standard for union participation, where a new worker has to choose to be in a union when they start a new job, instead of choosing to opt out. If ending the current opt-out standard is not possible, states can improve the process by requiring an opt-out only once per job or when a worker changes jobs, instead of having to wait until the end of a 12-month period.”
Currently, 28 states have RTW laws, and a decision in favor of Janus should not deter the 22 other states from passing RTW laws. These laws govern all employees within the state, so both private- and public-sector workers are not obligated to pay union fees as a condition of employment. In the wake of Janus v. AFSCME, state legislators should pass “open shop” laws to secure the fundamental right to free speech and association for millions of workers and to grant workers sufficient notice and time to make an informed decision regarding union membership.
What We’re Working On
Funding Formula Committee Has Chance to Transform Public Education in Idaho
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson examines how for the first time since 1994 Idaho’s Public School Funding Formula Committee is considering dramatically altering the method the state uses to allot public school funding. To accommodate budgetary concerns and revolutionary shifts in the classroom, the committee will recommend changes that could be implemented in the 2019 legislative session. Benson argues the committee has an opportunity to fundamentally transform public education in Idaho by shifting the funding formula to a child-centric model, where funding follows students, not schools.
Energy & Environment
The Social Benefits of Fossil Fuels
This Policy Brief by Senior Fellows Joseph Bast and Peter Ferrara documents the many benefits from the historic and still ongoing use of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are lifting billions of people out of poverty, reducing all the negative effects of poverty on human health, and vastly improving human well-being and safety by powering labor-saving and life-protecting technologies, such as air conditioning, modern medicine, and cars and trucks. Fossil fuels are also dramatically increasing the quantity of food humans produce and improving the reliability of the food supply, directly benefiting human health. Additionally, fossil fuel emissions are contributing to a “Greening of the Earth,” benefiting all plants and wildlife.
Budget & Tax
Increasing Vaping Tax Would Hurt New Jerseyans Trying to Quit
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans and State Government Relations Manager Lindsey Stroud examine a new tax on vaping products now under consideration in New Jersey. “Imposing excise taxes on vapor products are not justified from a public health perspective, and it removes a prime economic incentive for smokers to improve their health by switching to e-cigarettes,” wrote Glans and Stroud.
Free To Choose Medicine in Japan: A Model for America
In this Heartland Policy Brief, Research Director Edward Hudgins examines Japan’s efforts to adopt a Free To Choose Medicine model for cutting-edge tissue based cures. Hudgins also explains why Japan’s success should encourage lawmakers in the United States to adopt a similar model here. “The United States is the world’s leader in medical innovations, but Japan has become the innovative world leader in creating a drug-approval process that quickly makes medical breakthroughs accessible to the patients who need them the most. American policymakers need to learn from the Japanese example to ensure U.S. medical innovators do not lose their competitive edge and that the goal of these innovations is achieved: preventing and curing illnesses,” wrote Hudgins.
From Our Free-Market Friends
Illinois Lawmaker Proposes Making Chicago Its Own State
In this piece published by the Illinois Policy Institute, Joe Kaiser writes about Illinois state Rep. Reggie Phillips’ proposal urging “Congress to take action to declare the City of Chicago the 51st state.” The possibility of Chicago becoming a state was once proposed by state Rep. Bill Mitchell, in 2011. The previous effort proved to be unsuccessful and didn’t gain much support, and this new proposal looks as though it will have the same fate, as it was not voted on prior to the end of the legislative session in May. Kaiser makes the argument that “politicians would be better served focusing on reforms to make the entire state competitive,” which would eliminate the contention between Chicagoans and those in the rest of the state.
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