Since the U.S. Supreme Court declared in June 2018 that no public sector worker across the country can be forced to pay dues or fees to a labor union, support for the largest government unions has dropped significantly.
A Bloomberg Law article, “Unions Fend Off Membership Exodus in 2 Years Since Janus Ruling,” implies the opposite. According to the article, Labor Department disclosures (LM-2 reports) reveal that “many unions were able to convert passive fee payers into full-time members, though the results vary by union.” Their article’s findings are summarized in this chart:
This is misleading for a few reasons. First, of the eight unions listed, five are composed primarily of private sector employees, who were unaffected by the Janus decision. (The article does distinguish between private sector and private sector numbers for two of the unions.) Second, the numbers in the chart include both active workers and retirees. Most unions are seeing drops in members and fee payers but increases in retirees, who pay less or nothing in fees. Consequently, these unions’ financial condition is less favorable than the article suggests. Third, the chart does not include the largest public sector union of them all – the National Education Association. Fourth, the numbers for AFT are grabbed from 2017, rather than the most recent report capturing membership prior to the decision in 2018. Using older data makes the AFT number look better than it is.
If you drop the private sector unions, focus only on active union workers, include the NEA and do a comparison of the reports just before the Janus decision to the most recent reports, the chart looks like this:
According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, a combined 340,000 workers have left the following unions since the Janus decision: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the Service Employees International Union (SIEU); the National Education Association (NEA); and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). Specifically, active workers contributing to these unions fell by 2.9% for the SEIU, 3.9% for the NEA, 6.2% for AFT and 7.8% for AFSCME.
And the drop in union membership is even larger in states that do not have their own right-to-work law, such as California, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.
Janus reaffirmed the First Amendment rights of workers to choose whether to associate, or not, with a union. Many are exercising that right, and they’re doing so by leaving.
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