By Aaron Withe

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It has been one full year since the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Janus v. ASFCME, making forced dues or fees to a labor union as a condition of employment in the public-sector illegal.

For years, government unions have been able to force public employees to hand over hundreds and thousands of dollars in forced union dues. The U.S. Supreme Court in Janus deemed it illegal.

One year on, the difference in Oregon has been significant.

The Freedom Foundation has used a full-scale outreach campaign, contacting public employees in a multitude of ways to inform them of their rights under Janus. The conclusion? When employees know and understand their rights, they opt out in droves.

Within eight months of the court’s decision, Service Employees International Union 503 (SEIU) saw 26% of its members leave (per public records). Likewise, the Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) saw a membership decline of just over 31% within that same time frame, according to their website.

Rather than addressing the constitutional abuses highlighted by the Janus ruling, the unions’ response was to make it harder for members to leave.

Anticipating Janus, public-sector unions in Oregon began tinkering with the fine print on their membership forms to limit opt-outs to a narrow, arbitrarily defined annual window.

The Freedom Foundation is currently litigating on these public employees’ behalf and is representing more than 1,000 individuals who have been forced to still pay dues to their union.

Meanwhile, the unions also called in plenty of markers they held on lawmakers who owe their political fortunes to them.

House Bill 2643, for example, was the brainchild of the OSEA. If passed, the bill would have required the state to directly fund the union, rather than have union dues pass through employees paychecks.

Hypothetically, an entire bargaining unit could opt out of union membership and the union would still receive total compensation via the taxpayers.

The bill died in committee without receiving as much as a hearing.

Unfortunately for Oregonians, House Bill 2016 didn’t suffer a similar demise. The bill codified a list of one-sided practices that were typically subject to collective bargaining. Instead of negotiating certain practices, however, unions just used their friends in the Legislature to put it into law.

One of these will allow unions to continue to use the aforementioned opt-out windows with no repercussions. Another forces the taxpayer to pay for union activity on state time for union shop-stewards.

A year ago, I claimed that “Janus is the start of the end for big government unions.” The past 12 months have been proof of exactly that. However, there’s still plenty of ground to cover, thousands still don’t know about their rights, and thousands more are being forced to continue paying union dues that they object to. The Freedom Foundation won’t rest until every person that wants to leave their union, can do so without fear of pushback.

— Aaron Withe is the Oregon director of the Freedom Foundation.

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