Editorial: Public workers should not be bound by union contracts

In June of 2018 the U.S. Supreme Court in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees ruled 5-4 that it is unconstitutional to require public-sector employees to pay union dues, saying they have a fundamental First Amendment right to not be compelled to support union systems states and local governments adopt.

The court thus overruled a 1997 decision that said public employees who declined to join a union still could be required to pay a fee to cover only the cost of collective bargaining that determined their pay and benefits, but not be required to pay dues that covered other expenses such as political activity.

But Nevada law makes unions the “exclusive bargaining agents” for all the government employees covered by the designated union. While the public employee may now opt out of paying dues, his or her pay and benefits are determined by the union contract.

Until the legislative session earlier this year, only local governments were required to bargain with unions. Senate Bill 135 now gives state public workers the right to unionize. Not a single Republican voted for SB135, only union-backed Democrats. Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the bill into law even though a study commissioned by the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce estimated unionization of state workers could in two decades increase costs as much as $1.75 billion a year in inflation-adjusted dollars. The entire current general fund budget amounts to about $4 billion a year.

As Michael Schaus, the communications director of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, points out in a recent article even those public workers who decline to join a union and pay dues are still bound by whatever contract the union negotiates, denying them the freedom to represent themselves.

“Take for example an employee who already has adequate health insurance offered through her spouse’s job,” Schaus writes. “Shouldn’t she be able to ask her government employer for a small increase in pay in exchange for refusing health coverage? Or maybe another worker would rather have a few more vacation days than a scheduled pay raise — should he not have the right, as most workers have in the private sector, to work out a compromise with his employer?”

Schaus notes this leaves the union member feeling shortchanged because the non-dues-paying worker gets the benefit of the negotiated contract, while the non-union members are denied the right to negotiate for their own best interests.

His solution? Workers’ Choice — a policy allowing workers to opt-out of the union entirely and negotiate based upon their own needs and desires.

“Additionally, this monopoly power granted to unions goes even further in damaging the rights of workers to freely associate (or dissociate) with a union,” argues Schaus. “It prohibits the ability for workers to seek out any alternative representation, giving the controlling union virtually no market incentives to increase the value members receive from their dues.”

Nevada lawmakers could easily rectify this problem by excising the language in the law giving government unions “exclusive” bargaining rights.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

7 comments on “Editorial: Public workers should not be bound by union contracts

  1. Anonymous says:

    “Elections have consequences”
    “Owning cons”
    “Put that up your Schnaus”

    As a wise man told me once; “what’s good for the goose…etc. Etc.”

  2. Anonymous says:

    “States Rights”

  3. Athos says:

    Talk about “quid pro quo”!

    Love the cartoon!

  4. Anonymous says:

    “We do not have to provide human rights to those in our custody”
    -Trumps minister of immigration

    “Owning libs”
    -people that don’t object to the evil that Trump is doing in their names

  5. Steve says:


    Can’t “win” have nothing of consequence to offer……

    Try to change the topic!

    quid is perfectly fine when it works to save your own ox

  6. Rincon says:

    So the First Amendment says that unions cannot make a contract with a public employer requiring newly hired employees to join the union according to the slimmest majority of judges, who violated a precedent set by a presumably similar panel of judges 22 years previously. I guess might is right. New party gets a majority and suddenly, the Constitution doesn’t say what it used to say.

    If it applies to public employee unions, then it must also apply to all unions, since the reasoning is the same. This also of course, lends an absolutely huge advantage to employers, who not only have no need to organize, but can conveniently downsize when needed and then hire only those employees who are unlikely to join or form a union. They can also fire or not promote organizers so long as they’re careful about it, which can effectively discourage anyone from becoming active in their union. Individual workers will be forced to keep their head down if they want an income. The employer of course, can support any party or candidate using the income generated by his workers, who have no voice in the matter at all. It’s back to the plutocracy of the late 1800’s, when the middle class was just a sliver of the population.

    This decision may technically follow the Constitution. That’s for others to decide, but it’s clear as can be that it violates the spirit of that great document in spades.

    It’s a shame to see unions becoming extinct. Without them, the great middle class would probably never have emerged. As they recede, the middle class in America is doing the same. Probably not a coincidence. RIP democracy (Yeah, I know. Representative republic for the hair splitters). Hello plutocracy.

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