Note to unions: Freedom is the opposite of coercion
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This past weekend, AFSCME President Lee Saunders penned a piece in The Hill that perfectly encapsulates the problem with government unions, and why the Supreme Court must end their coercive status quo.

Saunders makes a series of dubious claims throughout his piece, but they all stem from his shockingly inaccurate portrayal of the concept of “freedom.”

Like so many others on the left, Saunders conflates the freedoms our founders cherished — speech, religion and so on, that essentially meant the freedom to be left alone — with entitlements, which he clumsily describes as the “freedom” to be guaranteed things that other people must inevitably be forced to pay for.

Saunders’s description could not be further from the true meaning of freedom and is an affront to the Constitution, unfortunately published over Independence Day weekend.


The founders cherished freedom because it prevented coercion. Now, the president of the nation’s largest government union twists “freedom” to mean forcing people to provide others “more than … enough to pay the bills.”

Saunders then proceeds to describe some of the policies his union fights for, and reasonable people can disagree on these issues.

But he continues to call entitlements “freedoms,” and in doing so demonizes employers and the so-called “1 percent” — while failing to mention that he makes over $350,000 a year, nearly double the average CEO salary.

Saunders and other union bosses’ biggest fear, though, are the right-to-work laws and the pending Janus v. AFSCME case that could extend worker freedom — actual freedom from union coercion — to every public employee in America, which could mean trouble for a union that collects tens of millions of dollars a year by forcing people to pay dues just to keep their job.

Right-to-work laws state that workers cannot be fired for refusing to join or pay a union.

Workers in 28 states plus the federal government have this freedom, but in the remaining 22 states, unions force workers to pay for collective bargaining, even if they disagree with its provisions.

This is particularly problematic in government, because collective bargaining is inherently political. For example, government worker benefits are taxpayer-funded, so negotiations directly impact taxes and spending (e.g., pension liabilities that have countless states careening toward bankruptcy).

No one should be forced to fund causes they don’t believe in, and a correct ruling in Janus would ensure public employees can serve without being forced to fund a political agenda.

Unions claim this would allow workers to benefit from representation without paying for it, but the Supreme Court has ruled multiple times that unions are free to represent paying members only, and unions nationwide have entered into such contracts for years.

Workers being represented by unions they do not wish to join are not “free riders,” but forced riders.

Moreover, contrary to Saunders’s hysterical claims, right-to-work laws and the Janus case would have no impact on workers’ rights to unionize (despite the fact that even Franklin Roosevelt and the first president of the AFL-CIO did not believe unions belong in government).

In fact, union membership has actually grown in right-to-work states while falling in forced-union states. So too have wages, population, and even tax revenue in right-to-work states compared to forced-union states.

Finally, after his many factually incorrect claims, Saunders makes a desperate attempt to undermine right-to-work by connecting it to the Jim Crow South.

This is simply ironic given unions’ support of the Davis-Bacon wage mandate, which was enacted and defended with blatantly racist intent.

Lee Saunders has every reason to protect the status quo that funds his six-figure salary and his union’s political clout, but pretending as though he is arguing for anything other than coercion — let alone “freedom” — is laughably dishonest.

Workers, lawmakers, courts, and the voting public have sided with freedom from union coercion for years.

Now, union rhetoric notwithstanding, Janus v. AFSCME represents an opportunity to extend that protection to public servants nationwide.

Akash Chougule is the director of policy at Americans for Prosperity, a group that seeks lower taxes and less government.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.