June 29, 2018
Was it a meeting of the National Education Association or the Democratic National Committee? At times it was tough to tell. Like a lot of unions, the line between politics and actual worker advocacy hasn't existed -- not in the NEA, not in Teamsters, United Steelworkers, or any number of Democratic slush-funds posing as public-sector interest groups. For the past several decades, people like Illinois's Mark Janus were told that joining a union was just the price of local employment. It didn't matter that their own unions would be spending those same dues fighting for causes their members didn't believe in. But, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, it matters now.
On Wednesday, five justices of the Supreme Court ended the 41-year-old tradition of what can only be described as legalized robbery. The government, Justice Samuel Alito made clear in his majority opinion, can't force people to fund political speech they don't agree with. If that sounds familiar, it should. The same court just issued two other decisions over the past few days that all arrived at the same conclusion. Whether you're a pregnancy care center being forced to advertise abortion, a Christian baker ordered to solemnize a same-sex wedding, or a conservative teacher whose union dues are being used to undermine them -- no one should be coerced to say, fund, or do anything that violates their beliefs!
For five million workers in 24 states and Washington, D.C., their views finally count. "All we're asking for," Janus said, "is the choice to make our own decision. Up until [this], we didn't. We were forced to do what they wanted us to do." While the Left will weep and moan about their lost leverage, the reality is, workers everywhere will still be free to join a union. But the key word is "free to" not ordered to. For once, unions won't be able to extort money from firefighters, teachers, and other public employees. They'll have to convince them that their contributions are worth it – just like, the Washington Examiner argues, "every other private organization." For those who don't, it'll mean "hundreds of dollars more in take-home pay a year."
After seeing a reliable pipeline of influence disappear in a puff of SCOTUS, Democrats were inconsolable. After all, those unions have $45 million dollars a year lobbying for political causes. "When unions lose," RealClearPolitics's Betsy McCaughey explains, "so do politicians -- primarily Democrats -- who feed at their table." For liberals, who've always tried to overcome the unpopularity of their agenda with coercion, it's a major blow. Unions, like activist courts and government fines, have been another way the Left has forced people to their side. That's what happens when your ideas are too radical for an honest debate -- you have to rely on tyranny to keep your influence afloat.
Meanwhile, if Democrats are the losers of Wednesday's rulings, parents are the winners. As Bill Bennett points out in an upbeat column for Fox News, this is a great opportunity for serious school reform. For years, the NEA had been taking teachers to the ideological cleaners, transforming from a serious voice in education to a satellite office of Planned Parenthood, Human Rights Campaign, and ACLU. Dues from the three-million member union have gone to a radical social agenda that promotes everything from abortion and graphic sex ed to LGBT extremism. In states like Janus's, teachers who didn't agree with the NEA were forced to become members anyway. When teachers like Carol Katter said the NEA violated her faith, she was told to "pay her dues or change her religion."
"The Supreme Court ruling may mark a watershed moment when teachers begin to take their profession back," the former secretary of education writes. "For decades, public school teachers and other administrative officials have faced the burden of – and pressure to conform to – unionized ideology. Starting now, teachers no longer face burdensome financial obligations and the coercion of being forced to support policies with which they disagree. They now have the freedom to work in new ways to pioneer and innovate state and local policies that can positively affect our children, schools and communities...
We believe the decision in the Janus case can mark a pivotal turning point in advancing fundamental values in public education involving issues such as local control, parental choices, school improvement and accountability systems, and quality content. Everything should be focused on ensuring that all students receive a high-quality education."
For SCOTUS, whose last two weeks prove just how monumental President Trump's election was, this was just one of the ways they vindicated free speech. On the same day as Janus, they also reversed a 10th Circuit Court decision that stopped a woman from suing police officers who tried to stop her from praying in her own home. The story is an incredible one, her attorneys at First Liberty explain. And while police typically have immunity from lawsuits like Mary Anne Sause's, the justices recognized the unique case of religious intolerance. There "can be no doubt that the First Amendment protects the right to pray," the justices agreed and sent the decision back to the lower court for reconsideration.
As FRC's Travis Weber cheers, "It's been a good week for free speech at the Supreme Court!" And what better way could there be to kick off America's celebration of independence than that?
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.