The Corner

Law & the Courts

After Janus, Government Employees May Be Less Overpaid

Prior to the Kennedy retirement announcement yesterday, the big story was the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME to strike down compulsory public-sector union dues. The government-employee unions now will have to work harder to convince members that their unions are worth supporting. Having published several reports showing that public-sector workers receive greater compensation than their private-sector counterparts, Andrew Biggs and I have joked that perhaps the unions should redirect their funding to us. While the labor-oriented think tanks try to argue that public workers are underpaid — which might suggest unions are doing a lousy job — we prove just how effective unions are!

All kidding aside, there is indeed a correlation between compulsory union dues and public-sector compensation. Based on data from the report that Andrew and I wrote in 2014, state workers in compulsory states were paid 17.0 percent more on average than comparable private workers, while state workers in non-compulsory states were paid just 5.6 percent more. This chart with state-by-state numbers illustrates the correlation well. (The chart is not readable when shrunk down for this space, but click on the link to see the full-size version.) So to the extent that there is a causal relationship here, the Janus decision can be expected to reduce the public-sector compensation premium in the long run.

Jason Richwine is a public-policy analyst and a contributor to National Review Online.

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