The State Worker

Ending 'fair share' fees will cost state workers $2,000 a year, study says

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California public employees might save some money if the Supreme Court lets them quit paying union fees, but they stand to lose a lot of salary over time.

A new study by the Illinois Economic Policy Institute predicts that a Supreme Court decision forbidding public sector unions from collecting so-called fair share fees will drive down public sector union membership in California by about 9 percent and cost public employees $2,079 a year in income.

The left-leaning think tank conducted the study in anticipation of a ruling in Janus vs. AFSCME, a case filed by Illinois state worker Mark Janus who does not want to pay the mandatory fees unions levy on nonmembers because he disagrees with his union's political campaigns. California and 22 other states allow unions to charge those fees, which are intended to prevent workers from gaining the benefits of union representation without paying for them.

The analysis is based on a comparison of union membership and public sector compensation in fair share states like California and in right-to-work states like Texas. It found that public sector compensation would fall about 3.6 percent if right-to-work becomes the law of the land.

"If the court rules as expected, the impact would be negative on union membership, negative on wages," said Frank Manzo, the think tank's policy director.

Taxpayer advocacy groups might cheer that outcome, and some public sector workers like Janus presumably will be happy that their wages no longer support organizations they do no want to join.

California unions are bracing for a ruling against them. Some of them anticipate losing a third of their members and millions of dollars a year in revenue. They're conducting membership drives and retooling their messages to connect with employees.

"This study highlights the reason billionaires and corporations have funded special interest groups that spend millions upon millions of dollars to pursue cases like this one; to weaken unions and take away rights from working people," said Yvonne Walker, president of state government's largest union, Service Employees International Union Local 1000. "What this study doesn’t reveal is that our eyes are wide open to the 'Right to Work' lies designed to divide us."

Today, workers represented by SEIU pay 1.5 percent of their wages up to $90 a month for full membership. Some pay slightly less in fair share fees. A ruling against AFSCME would allow people who don’t want to join the union to avoid all fees.

An earthquake at CPF:

For the first time in 44 years, a pair of challengers unseated the incumbent leaders of California’s largest firefighter advocacy group.

Brian Rice of the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department and Mike Lopez of California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention are the new president and vice president of California Professional Firefighters. The organization lobbies for more than 30,000 California firefighters from 176 different departments.

They unseated Lou Paulson and Lew Stone. Paulson of the Contra Costa Fire Protection District had led California Professional Firefighters as president since 2004 and was considered a giant in his field.

Before that, CPF has had only one other president. Dan Terry was its president from 1973 until Paulson’s election.

The two slates had a testy campaign this spring as they solicited endorsements from different unions around the state. One department in Riverside County even switched sides, dropping its endorsement for Rice and joining with Paulson.

Rice and Lopez won a majority of delegates at a convention earlier this month. They issued a statement praising Paulson.

“I wanted to take this moment and ask that we move forward and start working on reuniting our great CPF. I also want to once again thank CPF Strong: Lou Paulson and Lew Stone 2018 for all their hard work and dedication over the years. Together we are stronger and united we stand,” Rice wrote.

Ride a bike, get some cash:

State workers riding their bikes to work can bring home an extra $20 a month through a new program that rewards them for exercising on their commutes. To find out more about the bicycle commuter program, go to calhr.ca.gov.

Janus, Janus, Janus:

Check out this on-the-ground tale from Tacoma showing how unions there are recruiting new members while they brace for a ruling on the Janus case.

And, one of Mark Janus’ co-workers argues that the lawsuit will hurt Illinois public employees, including Janus.

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