By Matt Rooney
You probably missed it with all of the OTHER noise out there in this worlds of ours, Save Jerseyans, but on Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in Janus v AFSCME.
At stake? Everything. Specifically, whether it’s constitutional to compel 5+ million government workers in 22 non-“right-to-work” states (like New Jersey) to pay union dues.
The petitioner (Mark Janus) works for Illinois; on the other side of the table is the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union which automatically deducts union fees from Janus’s paychecks. If he refuses to pay dues and accept the union as his protector? He runs the risk of getting sacked.
Janus’s natural ally in this affair is the First Amendment and the rights of free speech and free association contained therein. AFSCME is political like any union such as New Jersey’s CWA and NJEA. It advocates for (and against) public policies in public, political debates. By forcing Janus to pay them? This so-called “agency shop” arrangement puts the government in a position of forcing Janus to fund his labor union’s political speech regardless of whether he agrees with his union’s political position and activities.
So it’s very easy to appreciate the implications for New Jersey is Mr. Janus is victorious. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) has exercised out-sized influence in Trenton for many years. NRA? What NRA? The NJEA alone dropped $73.3 million in political spending between 1999 and 2015. The NRA spent only about $200 million NATIONALLY during the same time period. In 2017? The teachers’ union spent $4.5 million in ONE DISTRICT, and the union leadership has admitted that it uses union dues for politics.
PLENTY of Democrats reading this post agree with me, and only one of them is named “Steve Sweeney.”
If/when the union dues valve is closed, once and for all? Consider how public union membership in Wisconsin is down 40% since the state, led by Republican Scott Walker, took a hammer to public employee collective bargaining. Janus could change the game here, too.
A game changer is exactly what our state’s over-burdened taxpayers need right now. Last week, Governor Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) found himself in the unusual position of being roasted by not just the right-leaning Wall Street Journal but also the hard-left Star-Ledger after the NJEA made him (yes, that’s what’s been reported) can an assistant commissioner at the N.J. Department of Education. Why did the NJEA want this official gone so badly? Because the official in question once worked as New Jersey director of Democrats for Education Reform, a group that wasn’t hostile to things like tenure reform and charter schools which the NJEA rightly sees as a threat to its power.
“Mr. Murphy’s cave on Paula White does not augur well for his governorship, given how so many of the state’s pressing problems from pensions to failing inner-city schools are rooted in public union obstruction,” opined the WSJ editorial board, which didn’t even mention New Jersey’s school funding formula’s direct impact on our highest-in-the-country property taxes.
SL’s Moran (who kissed Murphy’s rear end throughout Election 2017) said the powerful union has “a brass ring firmly hooked into the new governor’s nose.” He would know! And he’s not wrong on this point.
If the Garden State is ever going to be truly saved? New Jersey voters are going to need to do it themselves by standing up for themselves. In the interim, a good decision in Janus could quite possibly serve as a catalyst to get things moving in the right direction, unrigging out elections and giving taxpayer advocates a fighting chance. Most importantly, it’d bring the NJEA to heel once and for all.
Pray, Save Jerseyans!