In June 2018, the Supreme Court of The United States (SCOTUS) issued a ruling in Janus v AFSCME that a union, in this case the Association of Federal, State, & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) could not collect mandatory union dues from employees who are not members of the union. Such mandatory dues violate the First Amendment protections of employees, particularly with respect to freedom of speech issues. In short, SCOTUS found that it was unconstitutional to force public sector employees to support unions through dues.
Now we have a real-life example of how this court case actually works.
Oregon state government worker Deborah Nearman has now won the right to not be forced to pay for political campaigns attacking her husband, State Representative Michael Nearman, a Republican.
Service Employees International Union, the group that has unionized Oregon’s state employees, will be forced to return $3000 in funds in extracted from Ms. Nearman’s paycheck at the same time the union was underwriting campaigns against the representative. The union had accused him accused him of being an unethical "lawbreaker" who opposed paying disabled people fair wages. The charge upset Debora Nearman, who is herself disabled.
Ouch. That’s gotta hurt. Can you imagine how she felt when she went to get the mail every day, and there was a mailer making all sorts of ridiculous claims and calling her husband names? And knowing she helped to pay for it?
I don’t know about you, but I’d be really, really angry.
Mrs. Nearman has been an employee of the State Fish and Wildlife Department since 2011. The department’s employees are represented by SEIU Local 503. As part of the state's collective bargaining agreement with the union, all workers were prior to Janus obligated to either join the union or, if they decline, pay it a regular fee. In either case, the funds were automatically deducted from their paychecks. Those funds helped underwrite the union's various political efforts, which included mounting campaigns against Michael Nearman's bids for office in 2014, 2016 and endorsing his rival in the 2018 election as well.
After seven years of having her wages effectively garnished in order to support causes that adversely affected her and her family, Mrs. Nearman had enough. She sued the SEIU in April in order to stop it.
Once the Janus decision had been announced, the SEIU caved and agreed to settle. Aside from getting her money back, the deal included a requirement that it will "neither seek to collect nor accept any future dues or fees deducted from the plaintiff's wages unless she affirmatively chooses to become a member of SEIU Local 503 and authorize the deductions."
Which will probably never happen given the SEIU’s scorched earth campaign against Rep. Michael Nearman. According to an amicus brief that Mrs. Nearman’s attorneys submitted in the Janus case, the union's campaign against Michael Nearman left his wife "very distressed and humiliated ... especially by the charge that he did not support paying disabled persons a fair wage because Amicus is herself disabled." It was so bad that lawmaker was obligated to collect the mail first and hide it from her before she came home.
Yikes! He had to hide the mail from his wife because the union to which she did not belong, yet was forced to pay dues, was so vicious in its attacks that she couldn’t function.
Now, the union’s worst nightmare has come to pass. It has to cough up money. Money that was once used to wield enormous influence on the political process. Money that paid its officers one percent salaries. Money that ensured that other people’s money would flow to it.
This is what freedom looks like.