I SUPPOSE I SHOULD offer up a big “thank you” to the United States Supreme Court.
That’s because one of their decisions impacts me directly — to the tune of $8.37 per month.
In the final decision of their 2017-2018 term, the court ruled “that teachers, police officers and other public employees cannot be forced to pay dues or fees to support their unions.”
As the Los Angeles Times reported,
“By a 5-4 vote, the justices overturned a 41-year-old precedent and ruled that the 1st Amendment protects these employees from being required to support a private group whose views may differ from theirs.
The decision, in Janus vs. AFSCME, strikes down laws in California, New York and 20 other mostly Democratic-leaning states that authorize unions to negotiate contracts that require all employees to pay a so-called fair share fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining.”
Forced to pay union dues – like it or not
So, what’s this decision have to do with me?
It’s this: For 12 years I’ve been an adjunct professor at California State University, Fullerton in the College of Communications. I’ve been teaching part-time, and I usually have a class in the Fall and one in the Spring semester.
It doesn’t pay much for the amount of time and effort it takes, but I take some measure of pride in seeing students improve as writers over the years. In fact, I’ve taught long enough to be able to tell students on the first night of a new class that I can guarantee they’ll improve as writers if they listen to me and pay attention to the feedback I provide.
That’s all been pretty good.
What not so good is that I’m required to pay union dues — or more correctly, “agency fees” — to the California Faculty Association, “a union of 28,000 professors, lecturers, librarians, counselors and coaches who teach in the California State University system,” even though I chose not to be a member.
I’m not a union guy. That’s probably because I’ve been in management most of my professional career, but there’s more to it than that.
It’s hard to be a union guy if you don’t support far left causes
It’s this: I have a problem with unions because they predictably support anything and everything on the left. And as the left veers far-left and progressive, so goes the public worker unions.
I’m a middle-of-the-road independent who left the Democratic Party when they veered far left. Those of us who teach at one of the Cal State or University of California campuses here in the People’s Republic of California simply have to swallow the fact that we pay dues/agency fees to a union that doesn’t really represent us.
In fact, the language and rhetoric of the union makes it pretty clear that they have been worried that the Supreme Court might rule against them in Janus vs. AFSCME.
Here’s what the CFA, the union I pay into, said about it back in November 2017:
“Janus and ‘Right-to-Work’ laws are intended to kill unions and kill opposition to the environment-destroying, inequality-promoting, education-corporatizing agenda of the far right,” said DD Wills, CFA’s Membership & Organizing Chair and a Professor Emeritus at Cal Poly Pomona.”
Of course, it’s typical of union/liberal rhetoric that they refuse to acknowledge that not everyone believes in what they stand for, and that forcing people like me to pay to support their politics is an infringement on my First Amendment rights.
That’s where my $8.37 per month comes in.
That’s the amount of the “agency fee” I’m required to pay to the CFA each month even though I have opted not to be a union member. Yes, they refund me a little bit — around 80 cents per month — that they say is used for lobbying and politics, but as the U.S. Supreme Court observed, ALL activities of a union are inherently political.
Organized labor’s version of a practical joke
Refunding my 80 cents per month is the union version of a practical joke, because no one believes that only 10 percent of my monthly “agency fee” goes for political purposes when organized labor spent at least $1.7 billion supporting mostly Democratic candidates in 2016.
Dan Walters, the dean of California political reporters, described it like this in one of his columns on the CalMatters website:
“The theory of agency fees was that since non-members benefit from contract negotiations, they should be compelled to contribute to their unions’ non-political activities.
The (Supreme) Court held, in effect, that it was impossible to separate political and non-political activities, so non-members were being compelled to finance political positions that they might not support.
‘The First Amendment is violated when money is taken from non-consenting employees for a public-sector union; employees must choose to support the union before anything is taken from them,’ the opinion, authored by Justice Samuel Alito, declared.”
Amen to that, but of course, the CFA and all the other public sector unions here in California have been scurrying around planning for years about how to blunt the Supreme Court decision what it finally came down. As Dan Walters also pointed out:
“California’s unions have long been preparing for the decision, persuading union-friendly Democrats in the (State) Legislature to enact a series of protective laws, such as requiring new workers to attend union “orientation” meetings and allowing unions exclusive access to workers’ contact information while barring others from having it.
This year’s crop of budget “trailer bills” contains even more reactive provisions, such as making those orientations secret and making it more difficult for workers to stop paying dues.
However, the latter provisions could run afoul of the Supreme Court’s declaration that “neither an agency fee nor any other form of payment to a public-sector union may be deducted from an employee, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.”
It could require unions and/or their employers to almost immediately ask current members whether they want to continue having dues deducted from their paychecks.”
It’s the principle of the thing
That’s what I am hoping for — that the measly $8.37 I get dinged for each month from the California Faculty Association will stop getting taken out of my check when I get paid in August.
It’s not much, but it’s not about the amount in my case — it’s the principle of the thing. Plus, it’s a small price for the unions to pay for real, honest-to-God free speech where their members are concerned.
Hey, if organized labor wants to support the left at the exclusion of everything else, well, that’s their right I suppose. Where it went wrong was when they began forcing people like me to pay for their politics even when they didn’t agree with them.
Setting this right is long past due. Better late than never.