GESSING: Janus Victory Will Improve New Mexico Government

The Supreme Court Agreed Forced Union Contributions Violate the First Amendment

The US Supreme Court’s decision in Janus to give Right to Work privileges to all government employees across the nation is one of the Court’s most momentous decisions in years. It will have particularly important impacts in my state of New Mexico which, unlike most states in the Mountain West, is not Right to Work.

In New Mexico the government employee unions have been the most powerful single special interest in the Democrat-controlled State.

This may not seem like a big deal to the average person, but government unions’ major policy focus is on more government jobs and benefits for its workers. In other words, government unions can be counted on to support bigger government.

Since the mere act of accepting a government paycheck does not necessarily make one a supporter of bigger government, union lobbying campaigns funded by dues-paying members have not always popular government workers forced to pay union dues.

How will this ruling tangibly benefit New Mexico? A recent City Council meeting in the City of Albuquerque provides an example. The issue at hand was whether to raise taxes. Numerous opponents, mostly average citizens, spoke against the proposed tax hike (including myself). Those in attendance who made the case for higher taxes were nearly all there representing some government union or another.

It was never right to give the unions first dibs on employee paychecks and force government employees who do not support these goals to pay these dues.

The logic is straightforward: more taxes mean more money for government which then filters down to the paychecks of government workers (or allows more hiring of government employees) and thus more union dues. And, while many government employees will gladly pay a little more in the form of taxes in exchange for more government spending, it was never right to give the unions first dibs on employee paychecks and force government employees who do not support these goals to pay these dues.

That’s why Rebecca Friedrichs and Mark Janus (government employees whose cases made it to the US Supreme Court to free government employees from forced union dues) were so outraged and demanded change. Friedrich’s case made it to the Supreme Court in 2016 only to be deadlocked upon the death of Justice Scalia.

Mark Janus has finally given government workers in non-right to work states the ability to opt out of paying union dues if they don’t support the unions’ big-government agenda. The Supreme Court agreed that such forced union contributions violate the First Amendment.

While restoration of cherished First Amendment rights is critical, is it really healthy for one of the most powerful special interest groups in a given state or city to be the employees of that government? Concerns like these led pro-private sector union President Franklin Roosevelt to actively oppose the creation of government employee unions in the first place. It wasn’t until the Kennedy Administration (via executive order, not a duly passed law) that this changed.

Government is supposed to be organized for the benefit of the people. Yes, those people are free to organize themselves into various interest groups from the NRA to NOW and everything in between, but do we really want current government employees to exert such control over the levers of political power through the unions?

The Court’s ruling in Janus didn’t “kill” government employee unions. It just made them play by the same rules as other special-interest groups.

I say no. And, thankfully, a majority of the US Supreme Court agrees.

Government employees still exercise tremendous political power even in “Right to Work” states. Just consider the recent teacher unrest in Arizona, North Carolina, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Oklahoma. Whatever the reasons or their legitimacy, these are all “Right to Work” states. Clearly, political power among government workers still exists in “Right to Work” states.

The Court’s ruling in Janus didn’t “kill” government employee unions. It just made them play by the same rules as other special-interest groups. For that we should all be grateful.

Paul Gessing

Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility.

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