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Freedom of Speech is a Wonderful Thing to the Shock of our Bishops

For these reasons, States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employ­ ees. Under Illinois law, if a public-sector collective-bargaining agreement includes an agency-fee provision and the union certifies to the employer the amount of the fee, that amount is automatically deducted from the non­ member’s wages. §315/6(e). No form of employee consents required.
This procedure violates the First Amendment and can­not continue. Neither an agency fee nor any other pay­ment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’swages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay. By agreeing to pay, nonmembers are waiving their First Amendment rights, and such a waiver cannot be presumed.

Justice Samuel Alito, majority decision, JANUS v.AMERICAN FEDERATION OF STATE,COUNTY, AND MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEES, COUNCIL 31, ET AL

It will not surprise faithful readers of this blog to learn that the USCCB was on the side of Unions coercing dues from unwillling employees.  Go here to read about it.

One of the highly watched cases of the Supreme Court’s current session, Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 31, has sparked such passion that some 73 interested parties have filed amicus briefs in the matter. Among the most unusual is a brief by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops urging the court to rule against Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee who claims that a law requiring him to pay AFSCME an “agency” fee violates his rights. In an unusual move, a prominent bishop, Thomas John Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, has publicly disavowed the conference’s position, arguing that no consensus exists among Catholics regarding an issue “on which reasonable people can disagree.” Several Catholic scholars have also contested the bishops’ arguments, especially the prelates’ startling suggestion that a ruling for Janus would “marginalize” the church’s voice on public-policy debates in the same way that the Court’s decisions on abortion and same-sex marriage have done. The Court heard arguments in Janus on February 26 and will issue a ruling before the end of its term in June.

A social worker, Janus has sued to overturn a state law requiring him to pay AFSCME a fee to represent him, even though he had declined to join the union. He has asked the court to reverse a 1977 decision, Abood v. Detroit Federation of Teachers, which upheld state laws that give government unions the right to collect fees from nonmembers in a workplace where collective bargaining is in place. Janus contends that the activities of a government union, including collective bargaining, are political by their very nature, and that the union fee compels him to finance ideas with which he disagrees. If Janus prevails, it would likely mean the institution of right-to-work laws—prohibiting labor unions and employers from making union membership a condition of employment—across the public sector in the United States.

The bishops’ brief begins by citing the Catholic Church’s longstanding “commitment to protect both the poor and vulnerable from exploitation.” Unions, the brief observes, accomplish those aims by defending worker rights. In America, the church has a long history of supporting private labor unions, especially those composed of immigrant Catholic workers, such as the nineteenth-century Knights of Labor. At a time when many within the Church feared unions as “secret societies,” Baltimore Cardinal James Gibbons, a staunch supporter of the Knights, is thought to have persuaded the Vatican that unions could be instrumental in Church efforts to help the poor. Pope Leo XIII subsequently defended unions in his 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum. “To enter into a ‘society’ of this kind is the natural right of man,” he maintained.

The Janus case, however, applies only to public-sector unions. Janus’s fundamental argument is that, unlike dues paid by a worker to a private union to support bargaining between laborers and an employer, the fees that he must pay “subsidize AFSCME’s efforts to compel the State of Illinois to bend to the union’s will.” That makes the act of collective bargaining political in nature, as Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito observed in Knox v. SEIU: “[A] public-sector union takes many positions during collective bargaining that have powerful political and civic consequences.”

The bishops justify their interest in Janus by contending that the lawsuit is somehow meant to “lay the foundation” for extending right-to-work nationally to private-sector unions—a dubious claim for which the brief offers no legal rationale. Bradley Lewis, a political philosopher at the Catholic University of America, observes that while the bishops’ brief “cites many passages in classic [social] encyclicals . . . none of them refer to public-sector unions nor do they concern mandatory agency fees.”

What seems like the bishops’ effort to bend over backward to support AFSCME rankles critics like Bishop Paprocki because government unions are among the most socially liberal labor organizations, using their considerable resources—generated by compelled dues—to fight against the church on issues that have little to do with representing workers. “I don’t know specifically what Janus’ objections are regarding the union’s political work, but the public-sector union supports abortion and donates to Planned Parenthood,” Paprocki has said. In 2014, the union gave $400,000 to the organization’s PAC, which works to elect pro-abortion candidates.

The USCCB can always be relied upon to view the Catholic Church in the US as the Democrat Party at prayer.

 

 

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.

12 Comments

  1. Another scandal in the Church. It started with Judas and the fact only John showed up at the foot of the cross, progressed to England where only St. John Fisher kept the faith and brings us to today where the Bishops advocate for forced speech that leads to evil outcomes. The Bishops can’t even pretend they don’t know what the money will be used for as they were the principal reason we got Obamacare with its abortifacient mandate. God Bless Thomas Paprocki. He stands on the shoulders of giants.

  2. “The USCCB can always be relied upon to view the Catholic Church in the US as the Democrat Party at prayer.”

    Great quote! Can I attribute it to you?

  3. 1. No clue why the U.S. Catholic Conference has to weigh in on this, bar that non-profits seem to employ a certain number of ZMP workers with nothing better to do.

    2. Collective bargaining is collective bargaining. I’m not understanding the objection to paying agency fees in a union shop, other than he doesn’t wish to do it. How many things going on in your office do you not wish to do?

    3. A more salient problem is collective bargaining for public employees (as opposed to mutual aid associations of public employees). Around the time of the PATCO strike, MacNeill Lehrer included in their discussion the spokesman for an advocacy group opposed to collective bargaining for public employees (MacNeill / Lehrer had a certain integrity that the current purveyors of PBS news programming do not). He pointed out that collective bargaining for public employees confers parastatal powers on such unions. (He didn’t point out the feedback mechanism by which such unions marshal campaign volunteers and donations for Democratic pols who then give them sweetheart deals). It’s corrupt and wrong.

  4. “Collective bargaining is collective bargaining. I’m not understanding the objection to paying agency fees in a union shop, other than he doesn’t wish to do it. How many things going on in your office do you not wish to do?”

    Nothing goes on in the law mines that I don’t want to go on since I own the mines. His objection is because money is fungible and every cent they get from him is money they can use for political causes which he does not support. This is doubly anathema under the First Amendment since the employer is the government which thus becomes a party to mandating coerced speech.

  5. I have often wondered why it is not illegal for public sector unions to engage in political partisanship. Also, since Catholic social teaching bases it’s teaching of the right of union membership on the right of free association, how can the idea of closed shop be reconciled with Catholic social teaching? And how come no American bishop has ever addressed that issue?

  6. Nothing goes on in the law mines that I don’t want to go on since I own the mines. His objection is because money is fungible and every cent they get from him is money they can use for political causes which he does not support.

    I see your point. I think in re commercial corporations this is dealt with by having allied political action committees to which donations are notionally voluntary.

    Unions have PACs. Not sure what the current regulations are, but it seems to me that the matter could be passably addressed by requiring the purchases of advertising not be made out of the union treasury and that those working in political campaigns be volunteers or on a leave of absence.

  7. how can the idea of closed shop be reconciled with Catholic social teaching? And how come no American bishop has ever addressed that issue?

    AFAIK, closed shops have been a feature of the construction industry and docks where you have hiring halls. Not my trade, though.

    Union shops where you join or pay an agency fee are an architectural feature of stable collective bargaining regimes, because otherwise, the social tendency is toward free-riding (or intimidation to combat free-riding). Union shop is implied if you begin with the view that collective bargaining is utile. Given the course of industrial relations over the last 60 years, you’d have to conclude that there are forces at work in the sociology of sectors other than manufacturing which diminisn the utility of collective bargaining or distort its expression. Personally, I think we might replace Wagner Act unions with a tripartite system: mutual aid associations which do not engage in collective bargaining, company unions which are the sole repository of collective bargaining, and producer co-operatives here and there.

  8. Private sector unions are tied to their employer by mutual interests. I believe Samuel Gompers told his followers that if your boss doesn’t make money, neither will you. Public sector unions can always pressure politicians to cover their demands since the state’s power to tax creates a bottomless source of “profit” for both. They can never be allowed the same powers (in which both Calvin Coolidge and FDR agreed).

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