What Janus v. AFSCME means for New Mexico

It’s as if the New Mexico Legislature were an appetizer or side show. Multiple tax hikes are being considered by local governments while “right to work” is also moving forward across New Mexico. And, perhaps the most important US Supreme Court case in many moons is set to be heard on February 26: Janus vs. AFSCME.

Across the nation, unions are rallying the troops for a show of force on the 24th of February with the laughably-titled “It’s about Freedom” hashtag. 

So, what is this case really about? Simply put, unions, unlike any other private organization, have long had the power to extract union dues or so-called “fair share” payments from government employees in non- “right to work” states like New Mexico.

Mark Janus, a government employee in Illinois believes that it infringes upon his rights under the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution that he is being compelled to “speak” (in the form of union dues) contrary to his own political beliefs or interests. The unions obviously have a strong desire to keep those dollars flowing.

If the Court decides this case in favor of Mr. Janus, it could institute the equivalent of “right to work” for all government workers in states like New Mexico, Illinois, and California. It is worth noting that this case only applies to government employees and unions, not those in the private sector. None other than President Franklin Roosevelt opposed the very practice of allowing government employees to unionize.

Of course, in New Mexico while private sector unions are relatively small in terms of membership, according to Unionstats.com a robust 22.6 percent of government workers are unionized or covered by union contracts. For anyone who has spent time in the State Capitol in Santa Fe, they realize in short order that the government employee unions are among the strongest interest groups in New Mexico.

Far from “destroying” unions as the overheated rhetoric from them and their supporters might lead one to believe, unions will remain a potent force in American politics, especially in state capitals.

It is hard to see how allowing a private organization first dibs on the paychecks of government employees is in anyone’s interest but the unions’ and the politicians who rely on their money and organizing muscle. The Court seemed to be on the verge of ruling on this issue once before in the Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association case, but Justice Scalia died and the Court deadlocked 4-4.   

 

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4 Replies to “What Janus v. AFSCME means for New Mexico”

  1. I for one hope this forces unions to think differently about their positions, particularly on education. For too long they’ve argued for archaic, regressive policies that been around since the 1850s. Seriously.

    What seems more likely is that Janus condenses the two big teachers’ unions (NEA and AFT) to a slightly smaller (The NEA has about 88,000 agency fee payers, while the AFT has about 94,000—small percentages of the total number of teachers they represent) but more ideologic base as many of the agency-fee paying members (who are also more moderate and forward-looking in their views in my experience) will opt out of the union membership altogether.

    Or perhaps this will give rise to alternative unions who are more progressive and not so hell bent on avoiding any accountability or common sense measures such as differentiated pay based on student learning?

    Given that a nationally representative survey of 537 teachers by the Education Week Research Center found that 14 percent of teachers said the union represents their political views “not at all.” About 20 percent said “only a little.” That’s about 34 percent who are rather dissatisfied with their unions. They should start new ones!

  2. We have John F. Kennedy to thank for the legalization of government unions in 1962. The best solution would be to return to the pre-1962 situation where public-employee unions were illegal, but a good first step would be to allow public employees two choices: either they join the union and pay dues, or they decide to not join the union and therefore to pay no union dues, depending on whether or not they see any value in joining the union.

  3. The unions are just like political parties that strive to maintain their existence first, then consider doing what is good for the people. Political parties bully and badger their ways along, much like union and major membership organizations, to get their way. I have no problem with these organizations, i DO have a problem with them FORCING their will on others, particularly under the guise of “freedom”. It’s all about $$$, keeping executives in office, not liberty.

  4. If the Janus decision goes against unions, the frothing at the mouth will be something to behold. If union leaders are smart, they will reform unions into organizations people are willing to join voluntarily.

    Government can help by giving union members the same rights as stockholders in a corporation and requiring periodic re-certification.

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