A victory for the First Amendment and workers in Michigan

Oct 15, 2020

UAW and other unions withdrew their effort to overthrow a new rule in Michigan that will requre public employees to opt-in on an annual basis as a condition for the state to collect union dues. In early October, U.S. District Judge George Caram Steeh denied unions a preliminary injuction. 

“If the state may completely prohibit payroll deductions for union dues without running afoul of the First Amendment, it follows that a yearly reauthorization requirement for payroll deductions also does not implicate the First Amendment,” Steeh wrote. “[T]he State is not constitutionally obligated to provide payroll deductions at all.”

Common (and Constitutional) sense prevailed, but the suit raises some important questions too.  Why are taxpayers still footing the bill for private dues collection? Why won't some unions accept the principle of voluntary association?

When the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018's Janus v ASFCME that government employees could not be forced to join a public employee union or be forced to pay dues and fees if they refused, the Court was simply affirming that government employees did not surrender their constitutional rights as a condition of employment. Prior to Janus, state and local goverrnmnets would generally force employees into becoming union members or paying the union fees if they opted out.  These unions are private organizations, yet had the strong arm of government to enforce membership and take dues money direct from their paychecks.

In 2018, following the Janus ruling, King 5 interviewed Lynne Dodson, the Secretary Treasurer of the Washington State Labor Council AFL-CIO, who said, "We need to focus on talking with our members showing what the value is with unions. I think it will grow power and numbers we have. We will do much more direct talking and organizing,” 

Her sentiment is the right one and it is the one other private organizations have, which is that you need to persuade people your organization is of value and worth joining. Government union backed critics of WPC like to point to membership renewals amongst government employees as indicating of our "failure" on Janus policy.  They fail to grasp the point that voluntary membership is fine-- but forced membership is not. 

Annual renewal of membership allows for better accountability, prevents creating obstuctions to members who wish to opt-out, and is a small price to pay for taxpayers footing the bill for your membership dues collection.

Speaking of annual memberships, have you renewed your WPC membership yet?