New Jersey state government serves the interests of public employee unions very well. Their members get pay, health insurance, pensions, time off and job protections that comparable private sector workers can only dream of.
Now Gov. Phil Murphy and fellow Democrats controlling the Legislature are showing that government service to their union allies includes helping fight their legal battles for them.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that workers who weren’t union members can’t be forced to pay fees to them. Unions had charged the fees based on nonmembers benefiting from their collective-bargaining contracts. The court ruled the practice forced people to support union political and social agendas in violation of their free-speech rights.
Since in New Jersey government-worker unions aren’t just the most powerful political action force but are also an increasing part of government leadership itself, the state took action to undermine the Supreme Court ruling as soon as it was clear it was coming.
Six weeks before Janus v. AFSCME, Murphy signed a law to help government unions keep collecting the fees by making it harder for workers to opt out of the fees or the unions, as well as giving unions broad powers to press workers to join or stay in a union at their workplace — even during breaks and before or after their shifts. Murphy crowed to a union conference, “In New Jersey, we were ready for Janus.”
In particular, the law limits the time a public worker may withdraw from a union or stop paying it dues to 10 days a year — and different ones for each worker, i.e. the days following that worker’s date-of-hire anniversary.
Unsurprisingly, the effort by New Jersey Democrats to thwart the intent of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling has prompted lawsuits.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which had filed briefs in support of the eventual ruling in the Janus case, in October sought to void New Jersey’s severe limit on when government workers can “resign from and end financial support to a union.” It sued on behalf of three Lakewood AFSCME members, including the former president of Local 3790, who “wants the right to be able to leave the union or switch to a different union at any time.”
This month, the Mackinac Center filed three additional lawsuits, also challenging the 10-day window for union members to assert their rights, on behalf on an Essex County nurse, a College of New Jersey worker and an employee of the state Department of Transportation.
Three teachers are pursuing a class-action lawsuit against Murphy and the New Jersey Education Association, seeking to stop payroll deduction of dues immediately upon resigning from a union. The teachers union requires members to agree they’ll keep paying dues after they quit until Jan. 1, July 1 or 30 days after their employment anniversary.
Democrats have enacted the anti-Janus law and are spending taxpayer money to help defend the unions in court not for the benefit of the public, but for their own political interest. Government-worker unions keep them in power and take priority over the public.
Unions can’t be blamed for seeking ever more for themselves and their members. Relentlessly pursuing self-interest is a common human behavior, one that society finds advantageous to curtail in many instances.
The problem is that many of the elected leaders tasked with keeping union self-interest reasonable are fully allied with the unions or even union officials themselves.
Democratic leaders, like any person, aren’t able to serve two masters. In New Jersey, it increasingly looks like they’re choosing their union allies over their citizens.