Union buster.jpg

I was reading an article related to the Janus case – you know, the case working its way through the Supreme Court related to unions. The gist of the matter is whether unions can collect fees from non-union members to cover the costs of negotiations, since non-union members benefit from the negotiations. In the past, the Supreme Court has upheld this practice, and 21 states currently have that provision. This case is asking them to reconsider it, alleging that it is a violation of the free speech of non-union employees who might object to the political activities of the union. The money collected for the fees is supposed to be used solely for the purpose of negotiations.

Oral arguments on this were not promising. The court appears to be poised to overturn the earlier decision and decide against the unions. This could severely strap the ability of the unions to function, and reduce the level of union membership if everyone can benefit the same from the union’s activities without paying anything. Conservatives are cheering on the court, seeing this as their opportunity to finally break the back of the unions, and by extension, the Democratic Party, which relies heavily on the organizing power of the union.

The case hinges on the ability of the union to truly keep the money separated between the negotiations and the political activity. It is argued that this is not possible, since money put into the negotiations from non-member fees frees up money that can be used for political lobbying and other activities. Conservatives are stating that it is impossible to separate the money, and that this practice should be ended immediately.

This is where it gets weird. You see, this is the exact same argument made by those who feel that faith-based charities should not be receiving government money. The requirement by the government that the money provided is not to go to religious activities but only to the secular charitable activities appears to be a bit….leaky, and secular advocacy groups have argued for years that the money given for the charitable arm actually does contribute to religious activities by freeing up money to perform these activities rather than putting church money into the charity. The conservatives argument has basically been “nuh uh!”

Now we see a turn around. The conservatives suddenly recognize the leakiness of such an arrangement, and are moving heaven and earth to kill off an institution that they hate using this argument. I won’t say that the other side is hypocritical, because they are all over the lot on faith-based charities, so I have no idea if the people arguing the current case have held the same or the opposite on faith-based charities, but to be fair to the conservatives, I will acknowledge that it is likely that some on the side of the unions have argued the opposite in the past.

Now for full disclosure: I am in total favor of ending faith-based charities, not just because of the leakiness but because study after study has demonstrated that this is an area that the government does better, with better reach, and cheaper than the churches or other non-profits. I am also in favor of maintaining the practice of allowing unions to charge non-members for fees to cover services that benefit them. The thing is, I acknowledge the leakiness of the process, and recognize the potential free speech argument of the individuals involved. So I have another proposal that could settle this once and for all.

Non-union members should be free to refuse to pay union dues. At the same time, they should sign a waiver acknowledging that they made this choice freely, and that they understand that the choice can have consequences. Then, we come to the consequences. Non-union members who choose not to pay negotiation fees are not covered by the union-negotiated contract, but instead must accept what the employer offers them, unless they are personally able to negotiate a better deal. They will not be free to group together to negotiate for all those who do not pay the fees, because then that would be a union, and they would be required to formalize it as such and collect dues.

Meanwhile, we end all government payments to faith-based charities because they are less effective, more expensive, and represent excessive government entanglement with religion. The faith-based charities will also gain more freedom, in that they will now be free to proselytize anyone who comes in their door, and no longer have to go to the trouble of maintaining the charade that they have two separate functions – one totally secular. The government will either assume the appropriate charitable duties, or will funnel the money to strictly secular groups that have no religious entanglements.

Now wouldn’t that be a better world?