Forced Union Dues Fund Labor Union Politics

Trey Kovacs, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) submitted a brief in Janus v AFSCME, Council 31, a case before the United States Supreme Court. The question at hand is whether the First Amendment allows the government to force public employees to financially assist a union they do not support. The plaintiff in the case is asking the Supreme Court to overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education (1977), which permits unions to collect compulsory dues, or in some cases, agency fees.

CEI’s brief dispels the myth that forced union dues are only spent on union representational activity. Despite past U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have placed restrictions on how labor unions may use forced dues, “public-sector unions have demonstrated unbridled creativity in channeling the fees paid by non-members to fund a range of ideological activities as wide as any political party’s.”

In Abood, the plaintiffs argued that a “substantial part” of the forced union dues paid to the labor unions go toward supporting activity that was “political, professional, scientific, and religious in nature of which Plaintiffs do not approve, and in which they will have no voice.”

And the plaintiffs in Abood were, unfortunately, correct.

CEI’s brief puts forth a laundry list of political activity conducted by public-sector unions that was funded by forced union dues. The labor union is the case, an AFSCME affiliate, used non-member agency payments for advocacy on issues like:

  • Right-to-work statutes
  • The minimum wage
  • Gun control
  • D.C. state-hood
  • Instructed members on political organizing and voter registration

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