Saturday, March 14, 2020

Post-Janus Union Busters Not Done Yet

If you are a teacher and you spend time on Facebook, you've probably heard from those folks at My Pay My Say, their chirpy stock photo reminding you that you don't have to pay those nasty union dues.

These initiatives have been popping up ever since the Janus case gave a Supreme Court okee dokee to the idea of freeloaders in a union. Teachers who don't already live in Right To Work states have received a steady stream of postcards inviting them to dump their union; the Facebook initiative is just more of the same.

They look totally legit
In Pennsylvania, we also heard from Free To Teach, yet another union-busting group functioning as a front for the Commonwealth Foundation which is itself part of the State Policy Network, a national network of right-wing advocacy and lobbying groups. Free To Teach currently says its mission is simply sending out mailers.

My Pay My Say is also linked to the State Policy Network through their sponsor-- the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Also, they love them some stock photos, which is curious when you think about it, because surely they could just get some professional photos taken of the millions of teachers who support their work.

According to Sourcewatch, the Mackinac Center is "a right-wing pressure group based in Michigan." They have championed right to work, opposed environmental regulations, and even own a piece of the blame for Flint's water problems. They have long made it a goal to "outlaw government collective bargaining in Michigan," and they have lent a cash-filled hand to other similarly-inclined groups around the country.

Their funding is opaque, and they prefer not to reveal the folks who back them. Sourcewatch did some research, and none of it will surprise you. The Waltons, some hide-the-donor foundations, the Kochs, and a chunk of money from various DeVos family members (including Betsy). The Center is not messing around; their 2017 990 form shows them to be an $11 million operation.

Their pitch is the same as always-- don't you want to quit that stupid union? On their website, you can go to the page for your state, click on a few items, and they will take care of everything you need to dump the union. Benefits of dumping said union?

Your take home pay will increase.
Your benefits will remain the same.
Your money will not be spent on politics or programs you don’t support.

You get to keep more money while still taking a free ride on the contract your union negotiated. Your benefits will totally remain the same, until the future contracts when the district will take your badly weakened union to the cleaners. The last point is also important, since a central part of the Janus argument was that all union activities are political, including contract negotiations.

When filing out the form, you get a choice of five reasons that you're ditching the union:

I don't agree with my union's political activity.
Financial cost of membership.
Worries about corruption.
I don't see the benefit.

I would recommend that folks who want to check any of these take a nice long visit to a right to work state and see how the blissful heaven of a disempowered union looks.

Look, my beefs with the unions over the years were many. But if you think the absence of a union would somehow lead to school districts being more generous to their teachers, I have a bridge over some magic bean-growing swampland to sell you. Do you think the district will pay you better because you're awesome and they know it's the right thing to do? Then you are a dope.

The Mackinac Center was among the groups backing the Janus lawsuit, along with many of the usual wealthy union foes. He was represented by the Liberty Justice Center, another hard-right outfit, and National Right To Work Legal Defense Fund which--well, it's right there in the name. Janus never had to suffer any consequences for the shafting of his union; after the case was over, he landed a job with the Illinois Policy Institute, one of the rightwing groups that funded his lawsuit. Mr. "I Went Into This Work Because I Care About Kids" took a job touring the country as an anti-union speaker. In one odd little coda, the National Review awarded him a newly-created Whittaker Chambers Award, and the Chambers family protested, saying Janus's efforts "run counter to the instincts and experience of Whittaker Chambers." The award, only ever given twice, was scrapped.

But Janus and the union busting crowd are not done.

They've been shopping about thirty follow-up cases, suing to have the union give back all the dues it ever collected from them. They appear to be using the same strategy as before-- zip on up through the lower courts with unfavorable rulings so that they can go to the big show, and so Janus has petitioned the Supreme Court to hear his case.

This case is aimed at literally busting the unions. Janus himself is suing over a whopping $3,000, but of course that's not the point. If the unions can be compelled to refund the back dues collected from every union member who left after Janus, the resulting bill would be crippling. The argument on Janus's side seems to be that the Supreme Court ruling should be retroactive, somehow, while so far lower courts have ruled that unions were following the law as it was before the Supreme Court decided to rewrite it came to a fresher understanding of it.

So at the moment, we wait to see if the Supremes decide to hear this disingenuous bullshit appeal, in which case God only knows what will happen, or they will decline and the previous rulings will stand and the union-busting crowd will probably keep trying with the other 29 cases before hatching their next strategy for stifling those damned unions. Stay tuned, and for heaven's sake, think about the Supreme Court when you go to vote in November.

One final note-- remember that advertisers on Facebook pay based on how many clicks. Every time you click on that stupid ad, you cost the My Pay My Say folks just a little more money. Also, they have a Facebook page, just in case you wanted to share some of your thoughts with them. Just sayin'.

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