News Story

Unions celebrate compulsory private sector dues as public sector membership wanes

Public employees can invoke their Janus rights, and opt out of paying unions

National union membership numbers may explain why organized labor officials support forced dues or agency fees for workers who do not want to be represented by unions.

Michigan’s unions rejoiced in March when Lansing repealed right-to-work.

“After decades of anti-worker attacks,” Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber wrote, “Michigan has restored the balance of power for working people by passing laws to protect their freedom to bargain for the good wages, good benefits, and safe workplaces they deserve.”

In Michigan, private sector workers now have no choice but to pay fees or dues if their workplaces are organized.

Current membership numbers show that many workers do not believe the union is their best workplace representative. Once Michigan’s public sector workers could freely leave their union, many did so.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is the largest union for state and local government employees. It had 1.3 million members and fee payers in 2017, the year before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public sector employees cannot be forced to pay or join a union. But it has shed dues and fee payers ever since. 

Since the Janus decision came out, the union’s total dues and fee payer membership has gone from 1.3 million to 1.05 million members — more than a 16% drop.

Other unions, such as the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, have also shed dues and fee payers. In total, the NEA, AFT and AFSCME have lost 550,000 dues and fee payers since 2018. That’s more than 10% of the 5.3 million workers who were paying before the Janus ruling.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.