Report Shows Govt. Union Leaders Striking Back in the States

August 28, 2019, Harrisburg, Pa.— After the Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, government unions leaders are striking back at the state level with flurry of union-friendly bills across the country seeking to cement their power over workers. Meanwhile, a spike in labor litigation shows government workers whose rights have been trampled are taking their fight to the courts.

In a new report, the Commonwealth Foundation grades states’ public sector labor laws and  examines the burst of union-related legislation and litigation over the last year. Trends show that government union leaders and their allies in state legislatures have made inroads in weakening the Janus decision’s impact.

Click here to access an interactive online comparison of state labor laws in 11 categories.

“This report warns that a Supreme Court decision is in danger of being undermined by politically savvy actors at the state level,” commented Charles Mitchell, president and CEO for the Commonwealth Foundation. “Advocates for workers cannot rest on their laurels and expect public employees’ newly-restored rights to be respected. States must pass laws that enforce and protect the Janus ruling.”

Janus struck down mandatory union fees for public sector workers on the grounds that forcing individuals to support a political organization violates their First Amendment rights. But from California (graded “F”) to Rhode Island (graded “D”), union officials have successfully pushed for laws that sidestep or weaken the ruling and codify related union privileges.

In 2019 alone, over 100 bills were introduced in the states in response to the Janus ruling.

“In many states, union leaders are using their considerable lobbying resources to slow legislation that would enforce Janus and to pass union-friendly bills,” continued Mitchell.

The new report details union-backed legislation, primarily in the 21 states earning a “D” or “F” grade, that:

  • Undermines Janus by providing non-member fee workarounds
  • Expands union privileges like “release time” or taxpayer-funded union work
  • Provides employees’ private information to unions to facilitate organizing
  • Unionizes new classes of workers with or without their knowledge or consent
  • Requires automatic dues collection using public resource

In the face of union leaders’ Janus counterattack, several bills supporting individual workers’ rights have been passed in Oklahoma, Florida, Indiana, and Missouri. Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, and Connecticut have also introduced or advanced legislation requiring public employees to be notified of their new rights. These reforms serve as a model for states seeking to uphold government workers’ rights.

But a growing number of workers, not content with waiting on lawmakers to address their concerns, are taking union leaders to court. Across the country, more than 70 Janus-related lawsuits have been filed by public workers, with Pennsylvania and California accounting for nearly half of the total.

For example, Pennsylvania Department of Labor employees filed a class-action lawsuit against Service Employees International Union Local 668, forcing the union to drop a draconian resignation restriction called “maintenance of membership” for 9,000 public employees.

“More workers are realizing that their union’s leadership is acting for themselves rather than for workers,” continued Mitchell. “Our friends and neighbors in public service shouldn’t have to sue to have the same rights as you and I. This report highlights the need for lawmakers across the country to rise above union executives’ resources and influence and prioritize what’s best for workers.”


Commonwealth Foundation experts are available for comment. Please contact Michael Torres at 850-619-2737 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.

# # #

The Commonwealth Foundation transforms free-market ideas into public policies so all Pennsylvanians can flourish.