Janus is the third case to come before the Supreme Court in five years involving public-sector unions' ability to collect "fair share" (or "agency") fees. As this report will show, Janus, and the two fair share cases that preceded it, did not grow from an organic, grassroots challenge to union representation. Rather, the fair share cases are being financed by a small group of foundations with ties to the largest and most powerful corporate lobbies. These organizations and the policymakers they support have succeeded in advancing a policy agenda that weakens the bargaining power of workers. In Janus, these interests have focused their attack on public-sector workers--the workforce with the highest union density.
The possibility that workers could decide not to pay for the union benefits they receive if fair share fees are outlawed does not mean that they do not value these benefits. This proposition was explained in an amici curiae brief to assist the Supreme Court in understanding the free-rider problem at issue in Janus v. AFSCME, which was signed by 36 distinguished economists and professors of economics and law, including three Nobel laureates. The scholars explained that the free-rider problem is a well-established concept in economics. In particular, the brief shows it is widely accepted that if an individual chooses not to pay for a resource provided to him or her for free, it does not mean the individual does not value the resource, and that when individuals who benefit from a resource do not pay for it, the resource will be underprovided.
For example, as the brief points out, a recent union recertification election in Iowa revealed that a majority of workers in the bargaining unit voted in favor of continuing to be represented by the union, even though most of them also opted out of paying fair share fees.
Many of the organizations financing the legal challenges to workers' rights have also been funding legislative battles focused on limiting workers' rights. How do these groups benefit by limiting workers' rights? Anti-worker policies shift a greater share of economic gains to corporate players and away from ordinary workers. This is evident in the relationship between declining union membership and rising inequality. As union membership has fallen over the last few decades, the share of income going to the top 10 percent has steadily increased.
It's a bit of a long read but maps out how these wealthy corporate groups have been chipping away at unions over the years.