Montana Policy Institute strongly supports the right of all Montanans to freely associate with organizations, groups, and other individuals who share their ideas – including unions. This idea also means that no individual should be forced to join an organization and subsidize speech they disagree with as a condition of working for the State of Montana.
That is why MPI supports the decision in Janus v AFSCME.
Currently, Montana recognizes a conflict with the First Amendment and forced dues for public employees. If a non-member has a religious objection to unions, then they are allowed to donate their agency fees to charity. The ruling in Janus builds on that existing recognition of an employee’s First Amendment right and applies it to all forms of speech.
Janus merely gives a voice to those public employees who are dissatisfied with their representation and no longer want to subsidize the speech of a private organization with their paycheck.
It is also important to understand why this case is being brought forward. Agency fees for non-members are 70%, 80%, or even in one case 98% of full member dues. These dues are charged in order to ensure all covered employees pay their “fair share” of the costs to collectively bargain. However, far from being fair, MEA-MFT in their model constitution for local units recommends denying non-member agency fee payors a vote on who represents them in contract negotiations. They even recommend against allowing non-member agency fee payors a vote on the contract that their dues paid to negotiate. During legislative debates, public employee union officials are fond of deriding workers who pay agency fees as “free riders,” but that does not square with the unions forcing them to pay dues for a contract they do not get to vote on.
The experience of other states to the changes in Janus is that public employee unions will become more responsive to local concerns regarding lobbying, political and governance activities. Teachers and other public employees who support current collective action by the union will still be able to fully support those activities. Janus merely gives a voice to those public employees who are dissatisfied with their representation and no longer want to subsidize the speech of a private organization with their paycheck.
As the son of a labor household, I trust Montana’s teachers and public employees to make the right decision for their workplace situation, their families, and their conscience