More than 10,000 New York City employees — approximately 3 percent — have opted to not pay their union dues following the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. AFSCME earlier this summer, according to the New York Post.
This drop in payments cost unions roughly $250,000 for the two weeks between the Janus decision and the first pay period in July.
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Janus declared that forcing members of a unionized workplace to pay union dues was a First Amendment violation. The decision created a “free-rider” problem because, after all, why would a worker pay dues if they can get something for nothing?
The protections a union offers, including collective bargaining, handling grievances, and other essential union activities all cost money. If workers are getting these benefits without having to pay a dime, the union could quickly run out of money and collapse, leaving all workers without union protections.
A strong union is worth the money. Paid time off, parental leave, sick leave, 40 hour work weeks, and overtime pay — just to name a few — were all secured by unions. Unions are also essential for maintaining income equality by giving workers bargaining power to fight for better wages and working conditions. As multiple studies have shown, the hollowing out of workers’ wages is tied to the decline of collectively bargained union contracts.
A recent study by the Center For American Progress (disclaimer: ThinkProgress is an editorially independent outlet housed at the Center For American Progress), found that unions also play a critical role in the upward mobility of people of color. From 2010-2016, union members of color, including black and Latino workers, had $33,511 in median wealth — nearly five times the median wealth of their non-white, non-union counterparts.
The future of collectively bargained unions, unfortunately, looks bleak, particularly under the Trump administration. Since taking office, President Donald Trump has positioned himself as Union-Buster-In-Chief, rolling back a series of pro-union Obama-era regulations, spearheading a tax bill that disproportionately helps the wealthy and well-connected while hurting average worker wages, and more recently, nominating a Supreme Court Justice who stuck a knife in public sector unions.