Life After Janus
86 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2018 Last revised: 2 Jun 2019
Date Written: June 27, 2018
The axe has finally fallen. In Janus v. AFSCME, Council 31, the Supreme Court struck down the major source of financial security enjoyed by public sector unions representing nearly half of the nation’s fifteen million union members. Countless press stories, law review articles, and amicus briefs have criticized and defended this outcome.
This Article has a different aim. Rather than re-litigating Janus, the question I ask is instead forward-looking: What’s next? Is there life for public sector unions after Janus? And if so, what might it look like?
In engaging these questions, this Article has three goals. First, I want to push back on the narrative that public unions have no choice now but to struggle on within a national right-to-work environment. That is certainly one possibility, but pro-labor states have available a range of legislative responses that may soften Janus’s blow or even negate it altogether.
One response is for pro-labor states to authorize public employers to reimburse unions for their bargaining-related costs directly. The standard objection is that direct government funding will undercut unions’ ability to advocate independently for workers. My second goal is to confront this objection head-on, with an argument that draws on an unlikely source: an analogy between public unions and public defenders. As it turns out, America’s woeful experience with indigent criminal defense teaches some powerful lessons about how not to fund entities whose entire purpose is to contest the government’s narrow self-interest. But it also suggests funding approaches that would raise no independence concerns at all.
That leads to my final and most significant objective: to propose model legislation for state lawmakers to implement direct reimbursement of unions. The proposal is revenue neutral for public employers and unions, and it is revenue enhancing for workers in light of nuances in the federal income tax. Readers interested in the nuts and bolts of the proposed legislation may wish to skip the first three parts of this Article (which make the case for why reimbursement is desirable) and start at Part IV on page 43. For convenience, a model bill is included in the appendix.
Keywords: Janus, Union, Public Sector Union, Fair Share Fees, Fair Share, Agency Fees, Right to Work
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