Survey: 1-in-3 Government Workers Could Leave Union

Poll finds workers approve Court ruling barring mandatory unionism

Getty Images
August 28, 2018

One-in-three public sector workers would leaver their unions given the chance, according to a new poll.

Government union members won the right to cease automatic fee payments to unions in June after the Supreme Court found that mandatory dues as a condition of employment violated the U.S. Constitution. A poll found that a large portion of workers plan on taking that option now that it is available to them following the Supreme Court's 5-4 Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees ruling overturning coercive unionism.

"One-third plan to change what they are paying, with 6 percent saying they have already stopped paying dues and 25 percent saying they plan to stop paying," the poll found.

The online survey found the majority of the 300-plus respondents intend to maintain paying their union dues or at least agency fees, which cover the cost of union representation activities, such as collective bargaining and grievance proceedings, while not funding political activities. One of the reasons public sector dues came under legal scrutiny was the determination that government unions were inherently political since issues such as dues and wages would affect government policy. The Court agreed with the plaintiffs' argument that their dues amounted to coerced political support.

The online survey, commissioned by labor watchdogs at Nevada Policy Research Institute, found nearly 70 percent of workers intend to maintain their dues payments. The 33 percent who are considering halting dues payments do so for many different reasons. Many objected to the idea of being forced to pay dues without their consent since previous generations of workers had voted to join the unions, while one-in-five said the unions' aims were at odds with their personal beliefs.

"These members think paying the dues is an unfair practice (33 percent) and that it saves them money (33 percent). Others say that unions do not support things that they want (19 percent), they do not want to be in a union (19 percent) or some other reason (20 percent)," the poll found.

Labor watchdogs said the survey points to the disconnect between traditional union members and union leadership. The Janus decision has exposed this rift. Michael Schaus, communications director of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, said forced dues have caused unions to take many members for granted.

"With so many union members in favor of their Janus rights, it's clear that union leadership is often out of touch with their membership," said Schaus. "This study shows just how many union members value having a voice and a choice in the workplace. Workers expect value from their union, and they clearly value the right to vote with their dues."

Patrick Semmens, spokesman for the National Right to Work Foundation, which represented the plaintiffs in the Janus case, said he expects workers to exercise their rights in the wake of the June decision. He still expects resistance from labor leaders.

"Unfortunately, rather than complying with the Supreme Court and seeking to earn the voluntary support of the workers they claim to represent, we are seeing many union officials attempt to block current members from exiting the union and stopping financial support," Semmens said. "Ultimately more litigation will be necessary to assist public employees in exercising their rights under Janus."

Published under: Supreme Court , Unions