Gov. Cuomo, shown speaking at a 1199 SEIU rally in February, has signed several measures boosting unions, even as the Supreme Court moved to curb their power.
The Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME stops public workers who don’t want to be union members from being required to pay dues anyway. A 5-4 majority held that charging “agency fees” violates nonmembers’ free-speech rights by “compelling them to subsidize private speech on matters of substantial public concern.”
Cuomo is trying his best to help the unions keep as many members and as many dollars as they can.
Gov. Cuomo claimed that this outcome could “effectively end public labor unions.” Such overstatements are perhaps predictable in an election year.
More troublingly, Cuomo has taken multiple questionable steps to boost the unions. Before the Janus case was even decided, he signed legislation benefiting them. To stave off union membership losses, the law facilitates union organizing by giving unions access to existing employees’ contact information and requiring new hires to meet with union representatives on work time so that the unions can persuade them to join.
Legislation also stipulates that unions can now offer services exclusively to members and limit those provided nonmembers to make membership more attractive. For example, New York State United Teachers is now stripping all nonunion members of the life insurance, eye and dental coverage, and other goods it provides if they refuse to join the union. If nonmembers want those benefits in the future, they’ll have sign up.
The legislation simultaneously makes it harder for union members to renounce their membership. New York’s public unions can now set the terms by which members can exit. Those terms, enshrined in new “enhanced” union cards workers are being asked to sign, include specific windows of time each year when workers can opt-out and steps they must follow to do so.
Daniel DiSalvo is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, an associate professor of political science at the City College Of New York (CUNY), and author of Government Against Itself: Public Union Power and Its Consequences (2015). Follow him on Twitter here.
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