Hawaii Bill Would Use Tax Dollars to Pay Unions | Citizens Against Government Waste

Hawaii Bill Would Use Tax Dollars to Pay Unions

The WasteWatcher

From every paycheck Mark Janus receives, an amount is deducted and sent to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), one of the most powerful unions in America.  Mark is an employee of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, and to keep his job over the years, he’s had to pay thousands of dollars to AFSCME.  But as Mark says, “the union’s fight is not [his] fight.”  Mark doesn’t want his money to be used to support politicians who want bigger government and more debt, and who have helped drive his beloved state into a miserable financial condition.  Nor does he feel AFSCME represents him—he thinks he could do better on his own.

Government workers like Mark in 22 states—those without right to work laws—are forced to pay fees to unions as a condition of employment, whether they like it or not.  Is this constitutional?  We will find out soon, because much attention has been paid to the Janus v. AFSCME case that was argued before the Supreme Court on February 26.  The issue is momentous; if the Court rules in favor of Mark, millions of public sector workers like him will be freed from these forced payments to unions, and will be able to decide for themselves whether to join a union and which political causes to support.  Without these forced union fees, the workforces of state governments will become more diverse, more mobile, and more adaptable; taxpayers will get more bang for their buck.

For Hawaiians, though, that may not be the case, as supporters of the status quo are not taking kindly to a potential defeat in the Janus case.  A bill, HB 923, was introduced in January 2017 in anticipation of President Trump’s then-unknown Supreme Court nominee’s confirmation.  The bill would use tax dollars to establish a collective bargaining fund for public employees; the state would pay a union directly; the amount appropriated each year would be an undisclosed percentage of what it pays to state employees. 

In the event of a favorable decision in the Janus case, some Hawaii state government workers may choose not to pay union dues, and this bill would compensate for any decline in union membership by forcing taxpayers to maintain funding for the unions.  If enacted, this bill would pose risks, including risks to unions.  Unions are meant to be independent, not supported by the government.  Like anything funded by the government, the independence of the unions could be in jeopardy.  Imagine bargaining with a party that is providing you with funding.  Your negotiating position is much weaker than it otherwise would be.  For unions representing state workers, that’s what would happen if this bill were to pass. In fact, there is a long history in America of proud union independence from government.  Moreover, the efficacy and efficiency of a union could be crippled if it were at the mercy of politicians each year. 

The damage to taxpayers would be significant; they would be on the hook for a whole new line item in the state budget each year.  Government employees like Mark Janus currently are funding the political activity of unions with which they disagree, but all Hawaiians would be put in that situation if HB 923 became law. 

HB 923 would cost taxpayers more money in response to a Supreme Court decision that should save them money.  Currently, government employees are forced to fund the political activity of unrepresentative unions with which they disagree; this bill would apply that situation to everyone.

In an era that has seen many progressive states and localities come up with truly awful ideas, HB 923 is among the worst.



Sign Up For Email Updates

Optional Member Code