Bench Memos

Law & the Courts

Postscripts on Janus Public-Sector Union Dues Case

Janus v. AFSCME is being argued today. In my post last week exposing the many errors committed by the National Catholic Reporter’s Michael Sean Winters in his critique of my commentary, I expressed the hope that Winters would correct his errors before his promised/threatened column last Friday. Alas, that hope proved vain, as Winters repeats and compounds his errors. I’m not going to bother running through them again, as his failure to link to either of my responsive posts (he instead links only to a post I did three weeks ago) provides further evidence that he won’t fairly and competently engage competing arguments. (I do find it hilarious that he praises as “magnificent” one bishop’s gross misunderstanding of what the legal consequences of a victory for Mark Janus would be.)

Much better is Brian Miller’s Public Discourse essay, “Catholicism, Labor Unions, and the Courts.” Some excerpts:

The argument that ending compelled fees will cripple public sector unions by creating free riders is a common one. Since Abood, it has become union orthodoxy. To question compelled fees is to attack the “right to organize.” But despite this argument’s prevalence, it has never been substantiated. The public employees of twenty-eight states and the federal government are not compelled to pay union fees, and the public sector unions in these states are able to represent their members without fear of insolvency….

Conscientious Christians and Catholics can certainly find much to object to in these national and partisan organizations. And, if they leave their unions, it may be because they take Rerum Novarum seriously. Pope Leo XIII warned against organizations that “do their utmost to get within their grasp the whole field of labor, and force working men either to join them or to starve.” If workers find themselves belonging to an organization that is opposed to the public welfare or that endangers their soul, Rerum Novarum tells them to leave and form new organizations.

However, it is exactly that right to freely organize that our current law does not recognize. To fully have that right, workers must have the freedom not only to join a union but also to leave one. And unions, even though they are capable of performing admirable and needed work, must themselves be subject to the fundamental right of association taught in Rerum Novarum.


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