If unions are not covering their members on strike, then maybe Californians need to ask themselves, “where is that money going?”
Union work, the long protected method of employment from the “evil corporate empires.” Depending on your experience, you may love, dismiss, or hate the labor Union. For some, it has been the bastion for competitive pay and protections from flippant firings. For others, it has been the drain of their paycheck and the dragstone keeping them from promotions and bonuses. Suffice it to say, nearly everyone has an opinion on the Union.
Unions, historically and even up to modern times, have extracted their union dues from members in the name of keeping its officers compensated, financing advocacy on behalf of the members, and saving for worker pay during strikes. These dues are commonly seen and described as an investment of participation in the union and helping “the cause” of supporting the workers. While some unions have been scrutinized in the past over these dues and the wealth amassed, most have arguably been good stewards of their responsibilities.
The status quo was kept and maintained for decades, workers paid their dues and unions collected. That is until the Janus v AFSCME decision in 2018. This decision upended the status quo and threatened the base support of unions and their ability to collect dues. The rule of the land, allowing an individual to not join a union but still be on the hook to pay dues, was overturned as a violation of the First Amendment. Now, non-union individuals could no longer be charged for union dues and the onus would now be on the unions to attract workers and demonstrate the value of union membership.
Sweeping in from left stage, the California Legislature, “Hero and defender of unions.” As unions found their savings dwindling and struggling to fund political candidates, advocate for bills in the Legislature, and leverage employers into higher benefits, they turned to their lackeys in state office. Where could they find relief from their responsibility to cover their workers on strike? Maybe they could have the State of California help them out financially.
In addition to passing year on year mandated union labor for every project under the sun, California is now being asked to fund the responsibility of unions. SB 799, recently gutted and filled by Senator Anthony Portantino (D- Pasadena), will make it so workers who willingly go on strike, will qualify for Unemployment Benefits or unemployment insurance. This will provide financial relief for unions, allowing them to instead focus their funds on advocacy and campaigns.
The legislative financial analysis admits, this bill will cost tens of millions of dollars each year, based on the current average number of strikes a year and duration. The analysis even points out that the current Unemployment Insurance System is not sustainable, with this additional burden. The great burden on the system stems from two back-to-back economic catastrophes that have drained the system and made it insolvent. First, the Great Recession caused California to borrow from the Federal Government in order to cover the expense of workers going on unemployment; and second, the recent COVID shutdowns that caused California to once again borrow around $20 billion from the Federal Government.
Unemployment insurance funds are used for workers who have involuntarily lost their job, who are struggling to find their next employment, and it is filled through payroll taxes paid by businesses. These taxes inevitably cause businesses to increase their prices to cover their expenses, and go-on to the consumer’s cost-of-living.
California is the fourth largest economy in the world, yet we think that every problem is solvable through a tax. If unions are not covering their members on strike, then maybe Californians need to ask themselves, “where is that money going?” Should the state subsidize union actions on the back of the Californian tax payer? For this tax payer, I think the answer is simple: NO.
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