June 27, 2012
It is way too early to talk of a rout, but two developments last Thursday have to make public employee union bosses very, very nervous.
First, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who’s been more reluctant than most elected officials to come to grips with a fiscal crisis driven by union benefits, signedlegislation requiring retired state workers to chip in on premiums for health insurance they now get for free.
There’s still ample opportunity for this to go wrong. Quinn might be pulling a fast one: We smell the possibility of litigation over changing the terms of benefits already “earned,” and contribution rates aren’t set.
But even if he’s being too clever by half, Quinn has highlighted a problem with no conceivable solution that’s favorable to the unions.
And we’ll note that asking for contributions from current retirees goes farther than anything Scott Walker ever considered as far as we know. So can we look forward to unionistas marching on Springfield with “Recall Quinn” placards?
In a potentially more significant development, the U.S. Supreme Courtruled decisively in favor of union members who objected to the Service Employees International Union taking their money without notice to bankroll a political campaign against then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
What makes this decision a bigger deal than the Illinois legislation? The Wall Street Journal noted that Justice Alito’s opinion opened the door to explosive questions about “agency shop” rules that compel workers to pay dues for collective bargaining whether they join the union or not. Alito asked, shouldn’t people who choose not to join the union have a right to opt into its political activities, rather than have to opt out or lose control of their compulsory dues?
Sounds like an invitation for more litigation.