“One of American society’s last bulwarks against neoliberalism is very likely about to crumble,” lamented Elias Isquith at Salon on Monday, following the oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. The leftists at Salon are furious because the teacher union’s argument appeared to have weak support from the justices.
While Salon’s perpetual fury is always satisfying to read, I take special pleasure in its present misery. After all, this case — brought by a Rebecca Friedrichs and a number of her fellow teachers who object to being forced to pay an annual $650 fee to teach students in California — is incredibly important. It concerns an individual’s right to speak and work freely. The CTA claims the teachers’ collective-bargaining fee is legitimate because the union negotiates on their behalf with the government. The union insists that members’ fees do not go towards political expenditures that they disagree with.
But this is patent absurdity. As Friedrichs’ lawyer pointed out, all union activities are inherently political. Consider that a union member might disagree with the union’s negotiating philosophy in terms of contracts, compensation and professional development. That’s a disagreement of political speech, because the CTA is dealing with taxpayer money. Indeed, unions have long used cozy patronage deals with politicians to extract financial goodies in return for electoral mobilization. This semi-silent corruption scheme has been highly profitable: unions don’t want to see it go.
Nevertheless, listening to the media reporting on Monday’s hearings, you’d think the world is ending. BuzzFeed warned of “another deadly blow for unions.” According to the Huffington Post, unions were “scorched” and “the ruling would undo nearly 40 years in precedent.” NBC News, supposed nonpartisan brother to MSNBC, relied on unreliable, cherry picked pro-union data in its biased report on the arguments. This is amusing and tragic, but not surprising. Unions and their allies are superb manipulators of reality. They have to be, because whether it’s access to jobs and external investment, or tax rates, or living costs (read this Heritage Foundation report), pro-union states cannot compete with right-to-work states.
Unions and their allies have to be manipulators of reality because pro-union states cannot compete with right-to-work states
Yet this only speaks to the broader issue: social interests do not match union interests. Consider for example, how teachers unions across the United States always defend the right of an ineffective teacher to a job, while they ignore the right of a child to a good education. Don’t get me wrong; the vast majority of teachers are talented public servants that deserve more respect, constructive government support and merit-based pay. Still, where unions plunder government, economic reality means everyone else loses out.
For the decisive example, however, on why union capriciousness should be challenged, just look to Bernie Sanders’ Utopia — Europe. As I argued in December, expansive social welfare systems and union extortion rackets are ruining Europe’s economic future. This is especially true for younger Europeans who are locked out of stenotic job markets in large part due to union-enforced tenure contracts.
Friedrichs v. CTA is not a complicated case. For reasons of law, freedom, economics and social interests, the unions should expect defeat.
Tom Rogan is a contributor for Opportunity Lives and writes for National Review. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.