Throwing more money at the severe failures highlighted in this week's RICAS student assessment scores is not the answer, as our state already ranks among the highest spending states per student in the nation. The solution must come from fundamental reforms to Rhode Island education failures.

Center Calls for Empowered Teachers and ESA’s as Part of the Solution to RI’s Education Failures

Teachers Should Leverage Their Newly Restored Rights

ESA Outlet for Concerned Families?

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity for years has been warning about the poor value state and local taxpayers have been receiving for their high public investment in public education. Throwing more money at the severe education failures highlighted in this week’s RICAS student assessment scores is not the answer, as our state already ranks among the highest spending states per student in the nation. The solution must come from fundamental reforms.

First, the Center has previously suggested that public education can be the greatest beneficiary of the last summer’s landmark US Supreme Court Janus decision. By boldly taking advantage of their recently restored first-amendment Janus rights, and because unions can no longer force teachers who disagree with them to fund bargaining positions that tie the hands of educators, teachers have been empowered with a stronger voice to fight against ineffective policies. Teachers must be un-handcuffed by ending union-negotiated restrictions on how they are allowed to educate our children. Teachers must also demand a greater say about potential reforms that may improve educational outcomes. If teachers believe their unions are not helping to positively reform education, they now have the full-freedom and leverage to opt-out of paying any money to their union without fear of negative repercussions. Teachers, and all public employees can learn more at MyPayMySayRI.com.

Throwing more money at the severe failures highlighted in this week's RICAS student assessment scores is not the answer, as our state already ranks among the highest spending states per student in the nation. The solution must come from fundamental reforms to Rhode Island education failures.

Second, an outlet must be provided for families that want a brighter future for their children, which begins with a better education today. The Center’s “Bright Today” Educational Scholarship Account program (ESA), which was blocked by teachers unions in the General Assembly years ago, would empower parents to choose a better school for their children, by allowing limited dollars to follow the student to a private school of their choice. National studies have shown that such private school choice policies can improve educational results for participating students, without harming existing public educational outcomes. More information about the Bright Today ESA scholarship program can be found at BrightToday.org.

With ethics issues abound, we call on NEARI to authorize its own highly compensated union official, Sarah Markey, to resign from the South Kingstown School Committee.

Center Calls on NEARI to End the Ethics Drama in South Kingstown

NEA Scheme Would Create Continual Ethical Problems

Teachers Do Not Want Stigma of Being Tied to Corrupt Union Tactics

Providence, RI — With ethics issues abounding and an irreconcilable conflict of interest likely to result in constant recusals and committee actions that will be continually challenged as illegitimate, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity calls on the National Education Association of Rhode Island (NEARI) to authorize its own highly compensated union official, Sarah Markey, to resign from the South Kingstown School Committee seat she won in the November elections.

Generating intense local and statewide debate, most honest observers believe that Markey would find it impossible to balance her civic duties as a school committee member with her professional duties to preserve and grow union membership and compensation levels, necessarily at the expense of the taxpaying voters who unwittingly elected her.

“I call on my friend Bob Walsh to do the ethical thing here,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Understandably, government worker unions across the country are desperate to try to circumvent the loss of membership, money, and political power that will result from the landmark Janus ruling by the US Supreme Court. However, rigging the system by placing their union bosses as inside agents, who will only corrupt the democratic process, is an unacceptable tactic. This cannot be allowed to happen in South Kingstown or anywhere else in our state.”

The Center contends, with the NEA scheme now exposed, that Mr. Walsh should recognize that the gig is up and save the town from additional public embarrassment. Potentially furthering the fiasco, according to media reports, on Friday evening the school committee will consider firing the messenger – the law firm – that initially provided a sound legal opinion about the insurmountable conflicts of interest if Ms. Markey were to serve on the committee.

As the United States Supreme Court opined in its historic Janus decision last summer, virtually every action that a government employee union conducts is inherently political, as it necessarily involves public policy or public money. On a local school committee that deals 100% on issues involving public education, and its funding by taxpayers, Ms. Markey faces a hopeless conflict of interest.

National surveys show that public employees are often turned-off by the corrupt and unscrupulous tactics that their own unions sometimes deploy and that they do not want the stigma of such overt political actions tarnishing their personal reputations.

No longer required to pay any fees or dues to unions, and legally protected from recrimination or adverse consequences, public employees can learn more about their Janus rights at www.MyPayMySayRI.com.

Public school teachers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have little or no control over the four-out-of-five of their union dues dollars that support the high salaries and extremist political advocacy of state and national union officials. Conversely, a mere 16%-21% of their hard-earned money is directed to their local unions.

NEW: Statement on MA Report re. Teachers Union Dues-Flow. Just 21% stays local in RI?

RI Teachers See About 80% of their Dues Spent on non-Local Salaries and Issues

Detailed Spending Report in the Works

Providence, RI — Public school teachers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have little or no control over the four-out-of-five of their union dues dollars that support the high salaries and extremist political advocacy of state and national union officials. Conversely, a mere 16%-21% of their hard-earned money is directed to their local unions.

Public school teachers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts have little or no control over the four-out-of-five of their union dues dollars that support the high salaries and extremist political advocacy of state and national union officials. Conversely, a mere 16%-21% of their hard-earned money is directed to their local unions.

According to a report released yesterday by the Pioneer Institute in Massachusetts, only 16% of dues paid by the average Bay State teacher flows toward their local association. The lions share, instead, is funneled to the Mass. Teachers Association and the National Education Association (NEA). Worse for teachers, according to the federal filings of the NEA, AFT, and AFSCME affiliates, only about 20% of the “local” dues money goes towards bargaining or other representational activities.

In the Ocean State, a document obtained by the Center earlier this fall showed that just 21% of teachers’ dues may stay local; again with significantly larger portions flowing up the line to advance non-collective-bargaining-related state and national agendas.

“Understandably, most union members like their local union reps,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, “However, most teachers are probably not aware that 80% or more of their dues flow upward to support activities that do not directly help teachers and, as is often the case, political advocacy they strongly disagree with.”

Teachers, and any state or local government employee, who want more control over their family’s financial security, and who may have questions about their rights in the aftermath of the historic JANUS ruling by the US Supreme Court last summer, can find out more about their restored freedoms and their union’s activities at MyPayMySayRI.com. In short, the high-cost of union dues means less money in employees’ paychecks and more money towards a system teachers don’t control. @MyPayMySayRI

The Center published a letter from the Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA, a local NEA union), that not only showed the union misinformed teachers, but also showed that only $174 out of the $821 in proposed annual dues were to go to their local NEA association. In August, the Center published a letter from the Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA, a local NEA union), that not only showed the union misinformed teachers, but also showed that only $174 out of the $821 in proposed annual dues were to go to their local NEA association.

The Center is currently compiling detailed data on exactly how teachers union dues are being spent, including what political agendas and candidates are being unwittingly funded by the dues of teachers across the state of Rhode Island. An initial report is expected soon.

Center Responds to Mis-Informed Attack by R.I. Attorney General

Attorney General Kilmartin Makes Unsubstantiated Claims and False Assertions

A.G. should seek to champion constitutional rights … not obfuscate them

Providence, RI – With the expectation the state’s top law enforcement official would work to preserve and advance the constitutional rights of his state’s citizens, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, in seeking to educate public workers about said rights, responds to an intimidating statement from Attorney General that attempts to obfuscate workers free exercise of those rights.

By joining Rhode Island’s Governor in seeking to shield public employees from becoming fully aware of their recently restored rights, the state’s Attorney General made a number of unsubstantiated and false claims in a media release from his office yesterday. The Center, along with its national partner, last week launched its My Pay My Say RI public awareness campaign on the MyPayMySayRI.com website.

The campaign is designed to inform public servants of their recently restored first Amendment rights, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Janus v AFSCME decision; that workers cannot lose their job or otherwise suffer consequences if they choose not to support the political activism of their union officials by opting-out as a dues-paying member.
The target of the A.G.’s release, termed as an “outside group”, was obviously aimed at the Center and its public awareness campaign. The release, ostensibly, intended to “provide clarity” on the rights of government workers, only served to muddy the waters with a number of unsubstantiated, false, and contradictory assertions.

In claiming My Pay My Say RI  is a “campaign to misinform public sector employees,” the A.G. does not substantiate his attack by providing any evidence or even citing one specific data point that he feels is misleading.

It is false that the Janus decision “only affects … previous fair share agency fee” payers. All public employees are impacted by the Supreme Court ruling. Every worker now has the full freedom to disaffiliate and, as the AG contradicts himself in his own statement, now must affirmatively consent to paying dues.

In discussing “confusion about the rights of … public sector workers” and employees “falling victim to potential misinformation,” per reports and feedback the Center has received from the rank and file, it is union officials themselves who are disseminating misinformation, including the false and potentially illegal responses that:

  • The Janus ruling does not apply to Rhode Island or to one particular firefighter union
  • Those who may choose to exercise their right to opt-out of paying dues to their union would no longer be eligible for promotions or for overtime work
  • Anyone wishing to opt-out of union membership must wait until the end of their current collective bargaining agreement.
  • Just days ago, the Center exposed a threatening letter from a local union to its members in an attempt to coerce them to remain in their NEARI union.

“These responses by union officials – to honest questions by honest workers seeking to make the best decisions for themselves and their families – are blatantly false,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “I am more convinced than ever that the public service we are providing for public servants is very much needed. It is outrageous that high ranking government officials would conspire to keep public employees in the dark. Nothing we are doing warrants a response from the Attorney General.”

There were additional problems with the Attorney General’s statement.

It is an incorrect assertion that the “outside group” (the Center’s My Pay My Say RIcampaign) is educating public employees on how to “disaffiliate from their collective bargaining units.” It is not legally possible, as far as the Center has been advised, to do what the AG suggests. The campaign does provide an option for workers to opt-out of their government designated union; but public employees, whether they choose to pay union dues or not, legally remain part of the larger collective bargaining unit. It is disconcerting that the chief legal officer of the State of Rhode Island is not aware of this legal nuance.

In no way does the My Pay My Say RI campaign interfere with the legal right for workers to to collectively bargain or for public employees to perform their often vital services, as the A.G.’s statement implies. The Center agrees with the A.G. in supporting the “critical role” of public sector employees.

Finally, the Center also agrees with the A.G. that it is “critical that (workers) seek advice… from (a) reliable source.” However, it is the information on the MyPayMySayRI.com website that is reliable. Conversely, and as evidenced in this statement, misinformation and intimidation put forth by union officials is not reliable.

In July the Governor issued a directive, advising state agencies from providing contact information of public employees from outside groups (that may want to inform them of their rights).

For more information visit the MyPayMySayRI.com website or follow us on Twitter at @MyPayMySayRI .

An SEIU postcard mailer obtained by the Center, combined with the fact that legislatively scheduled Home Care Pay Raises have not been implemented, leads to serious questions about whether or not the Raimondo administration and the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) conspired.

Center Questions if SEIU and Raimondo Administration Colluded in Delaying Home Care Pay Raises

Legislative Home Care Pay Raises Delayed.
Purposely done to aid SEIU?

Is this another case of unions and government conspiring to keep workers in the dark?

Providence, RI – An SEIU postcard mailer obtained by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, combined with the fact that legislatively scheduled raises have not been implemented, raises serious questions about whether or not the Raimondo administration and the Services Employees International Union conspired to assist SEIU in making a dishonest appeal to unionize these home care providers.

The postcard, which deceptively seeks to compel home care workers to contact SEIU if they haven’t received their promised pay raises, may be further evidence of government collusion with public sector unions to keep workers misinformed.

As highlighted by the Center in its recently launched MyPayMySayRI.com campaign, incomplete and often incorrect information from unions is routinely put forth not only to its own members, but apparently also to those they are recruiting.

Did the Raimondo administration purposely delay implementing the provider pay increase so that SEIU might have a larger opening to recruit them?

Critical aspects of this story were confirmed by Center this morning after reaching out to the RI Partnership for Home Care (RIPHC), the state association that oversees the dozens of private agencies that employ over 7,000 home care providers.

Here is the timeline:

  • January – the Governor’s proposed budget does NOT include a pay raise for home care workers reimbursed by Medicaid funds
  • February – House and Senate bills introduced, establishing a process to unionize home care workers under SEIU. Hearings later conducted, bills held for further study.
  • Early June – House SubA budget (Article 13) includes 10%-20% reimbursement rate increase for home care providers
  • Mid June – General Assembly passes and governor signs budget, including home care pay raises that are to be implemented by July 1, 2018.
  • Late June – SEIU unionization bills suddenly re-appear and are quickly ushered through the General Assembly and signed by the governor
  • Early July – Governor Raimondo issues a directive to shield state worker contact information, so they cannot be apprised of their rights by outside groups
  • Mid July – RIPHC is informed by RI Department of Health and Human Resources that the legislated reimbursement increases would not take effect until at least October 1
  • Early August – SEIU officially endorses Governor Raimondo for governor
  • Late August – SEIU sends out thousands of postcard mailers, seeking to capitalize on the pay increase delay

The SEIU postcard deceptively makes it appear as if the home care agencies received the legislative reimbursement rate increases … but that that they were not passed on to the individual providers in the form of a pay increase. The RIPHC has promised its home care service providers that virtually all reimbursement increases would be passed on to them, however, the agencies have not yet received the scheduled increases.

Was this part of a grand, corrupt scheme? Further investigation is required.

“The idea that hard working Rhode Islanders would have their take home pay purposely held down so that the government can give an advantage to its SEIU special interest friends … is unconscionable,” exclaimed Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “As I have noted before, turning over control of this industry to overly politicized and incompetent government bureaucrats is the wrong direction for our state. Why would we want to put government and unions in between patients and their home care providers?”

The Center also points out the incongruity of this “SEIUnionization” attempt and the direction that the nation is heading. After the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the landmark Janus case, which ended the unconstitutional practice of forced payments by public employees to unions, it is clear that America is moving towards more worker freedom and less governmental control over our lives. However, long-time union activists and their crony allies in the government want to move Rhode Island in the opposite direction, seeking to consolidate centralized-control and planning under political insiders and their special-interest allies.

Center, National Group Rip Bristol-Warren Teachers Union Letter as “Threatening”

Coercive Letter is Designed to Scare Teachers Away from Exercising Their Rights

National Group Concurs!

Providence, RI – With an initial meeting tonight, and in response to the June landmark Janus Supreme Court decision and the My Pay, My Say RI worker freedom campaign launched last week by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, the local Bristol-Warren Education Association (BWEA), desperate to keep dues money flowing, issued an inappropriately “threatening” letter to teachers within its collective bargaining unit, according to a news report on GoLocalProv.com.

The Center and other national labor experts say this letter from the Bristol-Warren teachers union, which over-emphasizes the potential negative consequences of exiting the union, serves as nothing more than a scare-tactic to union members who may not want their dues to support the political activities of the NEA and who may be considering disaffiliation.

Colin Sharkey, Executive Director of the Association of American Educators, a national non-union professional association for educators, when shown the Bristol-Warren teachers union letter shared, “It is disappointing that instead of demonstrating what is valuable about membership and focusing on quality service to members, some unions opted to send letters threatening and misinforming non-members as a way to keep dues flowing. It reminds us why the Supreme Court had to step in to respect the rights of all educators to choose which association to join, but also illustrates how much work still needs to be done to protect those rights. Rhode Island educators, union and non-union alike, deserve better.”

“This letter clearly does not represent the freedom of choice that the Janus decision envisions. The coercive nature of this letter itself may be grounds for legal action, as could any specific misrepresentations made in the letter. Our local and national legal team will soon make a judgment on some of its specific claims,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It is encouraging that the NEA is complying with the Janus decision in that they are asking each teacher to affirmatively confirm that they choose to pay union dues, however the threatening tone of the letter defeats the purpose.”

Teachers and all state and municipal employees in Rhode Island can learn about their rights at MyPayMySayRI.com. The campaign is designed to inform public servants of their recently restored first Amendment rights, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Janus v AFSCME case.

MyPayMySayRI: It's your paycheck. Union membership is now your choice. Do you know what your newly recognized Janus Rights are?

MyPayMySayRI: It’s your paycheck. Union membership is now your choice. Do you know what your newly recognized Janus Rights are?

The Center, in partnership with the $10 million national education and outreach campaign, My Pay My Say, has already accumulated tens of thousands of email and mailing addresses of government workers. Enough money has been raised to fund phase I of the campaign, which will include thousands of direct mail pieces.

The MyPayMySayRI.com website includes educational information for public employees, with a dedicated section for teachers, and will soon include information on the political spending of certain government unions. The website also includes a page for workers to tell their story if they have unsuccessfully tried to leave their union or have received unsatisfactory responses to inquiries of their employer or union officials.

The website further includes links to an opt-out page where an official letter, requesting exit from the individual’s specific union, can be automatically created and printed, as well as links to a page where individuals can indicate that they choose to remain in their union.

For more information visit the MyPayMySayRI.com website or follow us on Twitter at @MyPayMySayRI .

In recognition of National Employee Freedom Week (Aug 19 - 25), and despite the state's attempt to shield public employees from becoming aware of their rights, we have launched our My Pay My Say RI public awareness campaign and our MyPayMySayRI.com website to educate about public employees rights.

Center Launches “My Pay My Say RI” Campaign to Inform Public Employees of Their Restored Rights

Government Unions and Political Cronies Seek to Keep Public Servants in the Dark

Public Education Will Be Biggest Beneficiary!

Many have already opted out!

Providence, RI – In recognition of National Employee Freedom Week (Aug 19 – 25), and despite the state’s attempt to shield public employees from becoming aware of their rights, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity today launched its My Pay My Say RI public awareness campaign on its MyPayMySayRI.com website.

The campaign is designed to inform public servants of their recently restored first Amendment rights, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark Janus v AFSCME case. A consistent champion of constitutional rights for all citizens, the Center believes public employees deserve to know that they now have full freedom when it comes to deciding whether or not it is in their best interest to pay union dues; and that they cannot be recriminated against if they choose to leave. Prior to the Janus ruling, all state and municipal employees in Rhode Island were forceed to pay their government-designated unions as a condition of employment.

However, the Supreme Court has decided that because it is their pay, union membership – or not – is rightfully the say of every public worker; especially when workers may disagree with their union’s political advocacy, which is paid for with their dues money.

Case in point is Michelle, a municipal employee in the Ocean State, who opted-out right after the Janus ruling and who said: “I don’t understand why some of my friends continue to pay their dues despite their political views being completely opposite of what the union supports.”

The Center has partnered with the $10 million national education and outreach campaign, My Pay My Say, to launch a customized Rhode Island initiative. “Despite the governor’s and the unions’ efforts to keep public employees in the dark, our Center and our national partner have already accumulated tens of thousands of email and mailing addresses of government workers. We expect to contact them in the coming weeks and ongoing for years,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “We have raised enough money to fund phase I of our campaign, which will include thousands of direct mail pieces. The more money we raise, the more awareness we can create.”

The Center believes that public education will be the greatest beneficiary of the Janus ruling. Because unions can no longer force teachers who disagree with them to fund bargaining positions that tie the hands of educators, teachers will be empowered with a stronger voice to fight against ineffective policies.

The MyPayMySayRI.com website includes educational information for public employees, with a dedicated section for teachers, and will soon include information on the political spending of certain government unions. The website also includes a page for workers to tell their story if they have unsuccessfully tried to leave their union or have received unsatisfactory responses to inquiries of their employer or union officials.

“We respect each person’s right to make an informed decision. It’s unfortunate that unions and their government allies do not,” added Stenhouse. “Based on history in right-to-work states, unions will go to great lengths to obfuscate the truth and make it as difficult as possible for workers to exercise their rights. We have already been contacted by workers who were brushed aside when making honest inquiries about the Supreme Court ruling.”

The website further includes links to an opt-out page where an official letter, requesting exit from the individual’s specific union, can be automatically created and printed, as well as links to a page where individuals can indicate that they choose to remain in their union.

The Center’s multi-year ‘worker freedom’ campaign in the Ocean State had a soft-launch in July and, already, many public employees have opted to leave their union, deciding to keep more of their paychecks for their own families. Ongoing, the My Pay My Say RI campaign will include email, direct mail, traditional and digital advertising, as well as other outreach vehicles.

For more information visit the MyPayMySayRI.com website or follow us on Twitter at @MyPayMySayRI.

The Rhode Island Center For Freedom & Prosperity

Center Announces Election of Dr. Stephen Skoly as Chairman

Dr. Skoly, well-known state advocate, assumes Chairmanship

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity announced today that Dr. Stephen Skoly was selected in July by its Board of Directors to become Chairman of the organization following the resignation of its former Chairman, Mike Riley, who stepped-down to pursue his candidacy for state Treasurer.

Skoly, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, is well known among many lawmakers for his research and testimony over the years on many legislative issues, especially pertaining to healthcare policy. Skoly joined the Center’s board in late 2017.

“For years I have been impressed with the great work of the Center. I value the importance of this organization in providing an alternative voice to the entrenched status quo. I look forward to growing the Center to become an even more influential organization in our state,” said Skoly, who also produces independent films and documentaries, some of which are currently available on Netflix. “Rhode Island is positioned historically and geographically to produce far better outcomes for our residents than we are currently experiencing. As recent federal reforms have proven, if more families are to lead more independent and prosperous lives, the Center’s free-enterprise policy ideas must receive more serious attention from lawmakers.”

Skoly has also pledged to help lead the Center’s goal to raise awareness among public employees about their restored First-Amendment rights following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ‘Janus’ decision in June. “Public employees deserve to know their rights; and we have already seen that unions and their government allies will not adequately inform them,” added Skoly.

Skoly’s production company was responsible for creating the popular “Sea Rhode Island” video ad, created at a fraction of the cost, as an alternative to the State’s “Cooler-Warmer” debacle.

The Janus case could provide right-to-work protection for all public employees in the country. Right-to-work means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

STATEMENT: Center Applauds SCOTUS Ruling on Janus case; Public Education to Benefit

More Worker Freedom From Janus Case Will Lead to Reduction in Union Power

Public Education Should be Greatest Beneficiary of Janus Case

Providence, RI — According to the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, today’s landmark decision in the Janus case, which grants workplace freedom to public employees, means that public unions will have significantly less power and money to block legislation and influence elections. “The greatest public benefit will be improvement in public education,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Many education reforms that would improve schools in disadvantaged communities are prevented by union collective bargaining agreements. If unions are no longer able to force teachers who disagree with them to fund their bargaining positions, unions will have less power to impose ineffective policies into contracts.”

#WorkerFreedom

The Janus case could provide right-to-work protection for all public employees in the country. Right-to-work means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

Janus Public Policy Backgrounder

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Backgrounder

F. Vincent Vernuccio and Patrick Wright

WHAT IS THE JANUS CASE?

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 is a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court filed by Mark Janus and two other Illinois state workers. If the justices rule in favor of Janus, the decision could:

  • Provide right-to-work protection for all public employees in the country. Right-to-work means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

BACKGROUND

All workers, whether they are in a right-to-work state or not, have the right to leave their union.

In non-right-to-work states like Rhode Island, however, employees can only opt out of paying the political portion of their dues, and many unions require them to submit paperwork to this effect annually. These workers are called “agency fee payers.”

Unions charge agency fee payers close to the same amount they charge regular members for dues. In California, for example, teachers are required to pay around 70 percent of their dues as agency fees, and in other states this amount can be even higher.

For most labor unions in Rhode Island, the amount of agency fees is left to each union and employer to negotiate, but they are often equal to dues. The exception to this contract-by-contract flexibility is for employees of the state, who are required by law to pay agency fees equal to dues even if they do not join their respective unions (RIGL 36-11-2). Rhode Island is one of only three states in the country that requires agency fees for state employees.

The right not to pay for a union’s political agenda through dues comes from the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector workers have a First Amendment right not to be forced to pay for union politics. Private sector workers are granted the same right through a different court decision.


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Many states give government unions a monopoly over representation. The Abood case allowed unions to force all workers covered by the collective bargaining agreement to pay for the expenses incurred for representation, regardless of whether the employee wanted such representation or not. The argument in Abood was that, if workers were given a choice, an insufficient number of them would offer financial support to the union, making it difficult for the union to bargain effectively on their behalf.

As of 2018, workers in 27 states can exercise right-to-work rights and are not forced to pay dues or fees to the union organized in their workplace. In right-to-work states, however, only about 20 percent of unionized workers exercise these rights, meaning that unions in these states still have the financial support of about 80 percent of workers, on average. This suggests that the fears that rationalized the Abood decision were likely overstated.

Similar Rhode Island Case

In the Ocean State, five police officers in the town of Westerly sued the city over a requirement that they pay almost 15% of their salaries to the local union. The Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights, a Rhode Island–based nonprofit legal entity, litigated this case to defend non-union reserve police officers from being forced to contribute $5.00 of their $35.00 hourly pay to the union local.

Hopkins Center chairman Giovanni Cicione writes: “This was foisted on them without their consent, and these good public servants, many of whom are part-timers and retirees, are being forced to subsidize an organization they do not support and from which they receive no benefits.”

MAIN ARGUMENTS OF JANUS

Mark Janus and the other plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Abood decision. They argue collective bargaining in the public sector is inherently political, and government unions devote more resources to their political agendas than just the small portion of dues that goes to directly support political candidates or causes.

On its Web page for a similar case covering teachers, the Center for Individual Rights explains, “Whether the union is negotiating for specific class sizes or pressing a local government to spend tax dollars on teacher pensions rather than on building parks, the union’s negotiating positions embody political choices that are often controversial.” Therefore, the plaintiffs say that by being forced to fund collective bargaining, they are being forced to fund political activity they might not necessarily agree with.

MAIN POINTS

  • Government workers would still be able to remain in their unions, and those unions would still be able to collectively bargain. Janus would simply give workers a choice and prevent them from being fired for not paying a union.
  • Giving workers a choice can make unions stronger. Unions would need to prove their worth to their membership, giving members better representation and more-responsive leadership.
  • All collective bargaining by government unions is inherently political. Workers have a First Amendment right not to be forced to pay for political spending they disagree with. Therefore, workers should not be forced to support government unions.
  • Unions should not have the power to get workers fired for exercising their First Amendment rights.
  • While the case would essentially mean right-to-work for public employees across the country, practically it would only apply to the 22 states in which government workers are not already right-to-work and paying agency fees.
  • Only about 20 percent of workers in right-to-work states exercise their rights, so the practical effect of the case will likely only affect about 20 percent of government workers in the 22 states that do not already provide these rights to workers.

KEY DATES

February 26, 2018 — The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Friedrichs case

End of June 2018 — Likely decision by the court

About the Authors

F. Vincent Vernuccio is Director of Labor Policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Patrick Wright is the Mackinac Center’s Vice President for Legal Affairs Affairs and authored the Center’s two briefs in the Friedrichs case.
The Mackinac Center is located in Midland,
Michigan.