by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The 2018 Supreme Court decision Janus v. AFSCME clarified public-sector workers’ constitutional rights with respect to unionization, but many states have failed to update their laws in response. The Florida legislature, with its large Republican majority, has passed a bill to do that, and Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to sign it. More states should follow Florida’s lead.
In Janus, the Court said that no worker can be forced to subsidize a public-sector union; he must “affirmatively consent to pay.” Because everything public-sector unions do is political in nature, requiring workers to support a public-sector union, either with dues or agency fees, would violate the First Amendment.
Florida’s 15-page bill ends some of the forms of special treatment that public-sector unions have enjoyed. Florida public employees had their union dues deducted from their paychecks by the state government; under this bill, union members will have to make those payments themselves, just as they would for any other voluntary organization they might join. The bill requires public-sector workers who wish to be union members to sign a form authorizing dues deduction. The form notifies workers of their rights under Florida’s right-to-work law and the Janus decision.
This is a smart and straightforward way to bring state law in line with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
We’ve seen the consequences of not updating state law to reflect the Janus decision. Oregon and Washington, two states with automatic dues deduction, have seen public-sector workers sue after their money was taken from them without their consent. In some cases, unions allegedly forged documents to continue taking public-sector workers’ dues after they had opted out of the union. Florida’s bill solves this problem by ending automatic deduction and changing the law so that workers opt in to public-sector unions if they want to join, rather than having to opt out if they want to leave.