The Supreme Court in Janus overturned a 41 year old precedent permitting a state to compel non-union members of a public union bargaining unit to support the union that represents them in collective bargaining. The precedent, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, said that non-union members of the collective bargaining unit could not be forced to support the electioneering activities of the union, but could be forced to support the collective bargaining expenses, the grievance expenses, recreational activities, and more controversially – lobbying activities.
In my view, Abood was right and Janus is wrong. Citizens commonly are taxed to support ideologies to which they are opposed. Suppose Michigan decided that unions ably represented workers against corporate power and decided to tax the population to support unions. Surely, Michigan could use subsidize collective bargaining expenses and the like. It even could support lobbying expenses, given that Michigan can pay the expenses of witnesses that provide information to it. On the other hand, Michigan should not be able to give money to unions for electioneering purposes. A legislature principally composed of Democrats should not be able to use treasury funds for election purposes to unions who will give the funds back as election contributions.
Suppose instead the same facts, but Michigan taxes the beneficiaries – the workers – instead of the general public. The result should be the same.
Finally, suppose the Michigan legislature decided that taxes go to Lansing and then back to the union which creates an unnecessary layer of expense. So the legislature requires the workers to pay the union directly subject to the same conditions previously mentioned. So understood, the charge at issue in Janus is an excise tax and the Abood scheme is not problematic.
The Janus case not only lets non-union members be free riders, but also offers economic incentives for union members to become non-members while still receiving the benefits of representation. It will undermine the role of unions in confronting corporate power, a needed check against plutocracy.
The Republican majority knows this. They also knew the stakes in political and racial gerrymandering cases, and in a case that would exclude many Democratic voters from the election rolls. If the Republic majority was a group of party hacks, they would have voted the same way.