In last week’s workers’ compensation blog post, we detailed a recent Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME. This case has attracted a lot of media attention because it prohibited unions from collecting agency fees. As we discussed in that blog post, these agency fees were one of the only ways unions could prevent free riders from benefitting from their collective bargaining efforts without paying for them.
An often overlooked piece of this puzzle is how weakened unions will struggle to protect workers’ rights, including in the form of workers’ compensation.
What are Agency Fees?
Many workplaces, including her in Missouri, have some union workers and lots of non-union workers. Many non-union workers, though, still benefit from the presence of unions in their workplace. Unions promote workplace safety and advocate for workers in other ways, as well. Non-union workers often indirectly benefit from these efforts, even though they are not a part of the union.
In some cases, unions collect fees from non-union workers for the help they have provided. These are agency fees, and many unions rely on them.
Union Fees and Advocacy Work
Some of the agency fees that unions collect go towards their advocacy efforts. These efforts include lobbying and public relations work that bring important issues to the attention of politicians and to members of the public. They also include advocacy drives that aim to change laws and policies in ways that help workers.
Agency fees, therefore, are a huge part of how unions operate, and not just for their own members. When unions lobby local, state, and national politicians and push government agencies for pro-worker reform, all workers benefit, not just union workers.
No Agency Fees Means More Free Riders and Less Power
Now that the Supreme Court of the United States has prohibited agency fees, that source of union funding disappears. Worse, it creates the problem free riders that we covered in last week’s blog post: As more workers realize they can benefit from union work without paying for it through agency fees, they will choose to keep that part of their paycheck. This creates a snowball effect that will eat into the funding for unions, across the country. With less funding, unions will have much less power to advocate for workers in America.
Less Union Power Means Weaker Workers’ Compensation Rights
Unfortunately, with less funding, unions will be far less able to preserve workers’ compensation rights. The result will likely be a backslide towards the days when workers had little to no protections, should they get hurt while on the job.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
The Janus decision is dangerous for workers, especially those who work in dangerous fields like construction or food processing. In later posts, we will discuss why the Janus decision is weakly thought out, and what effect it will have on the upcoming Proposition A vote, in Missouri.