A new case from the U.S. Supreme Court is being called one of the worst ever for unions in the country and in Missouri. The decision will exacerbate the so-called free rider problem that unions have, reducing their ability to fight for workers. This will likely hurt workers’ compensation laws, in the long run.
Supreme Court Decision Impacts Unions for Public Employees
The case, Janus v. AFSCME, was handed down June 27, 2018. In it, the Supreme Court of the United States decided that unions for public employees were violating the First Amendment when they took agency fees from workers. These fees are paid to unions by non-members who benefit from the union’s collective bargaining activities at their workplace.
According to the Court, though, collecting these fees violated the First Amendment because it “compelled” non-members to make political statements by paying a union.
There are a lot of things that are wrong with this argument, and the decision will have implications on Missouri’s upcoming Proposition A vote, but we will cover those issues, later.
Now, though, we are covering the free rider problem that this ruling creates.
Agency Fees Were the Only Thing Stopping Free Riders
Many workplaces in Missouri—especially in the public sector—have some union workers and some non-union workers. While the union members are the only ones who pay a union fee, though, non-union workers still benefit from the power of the union: Its presence drastically improves workplace safety, and its ability to collectively bargain results in better conditions for everyone, including workers’ compensation schemes.
Unions know this, and so have charged agency fees to non-members for the benefits that they have indirectly received from the union. These fees are typically less than the cost of a full membership, but ensured that workers contributed to the union that was helping them at work.
The Supreme Court in Janus, though, banned unions from collecting these agency fees. Now, non-union workers can indirectly benefit from unions, without being forced to pay for them. Workers will now have a choice to make: Either pay full union dues and benefit from the union, or pay nothing, and still benefit from the union. Nearly everyone, but particularly those whose paycheck is already small, will choose to pay nothing.
This is the free rider problem that unions have faced since they first formed, and which agency fees aimed to prevent. Unions now have to represent groups of workers who will benefit from their actions, but who will not pay for them. More people will count on unions, but the unions will have fewer resources to advocate on their behalf.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
In our next blog post, we will cover the all-important link between unions and your workers’ compensation rights: Unions are the ones who lobby for them.