You have to pay your dues!

By The Record | Feb 26, 2019

That expression is figuratively true when applied to life in general, insofar as we all have to make an effort, accept sacrifices, face setbacks, and overcome obstacles to get ahead in this world.

It’s also literally true if you want to belong to a club that charges dues. But what if you don’t want to belong to a club and membership is compulsory? Or what if you’re willing to pay dues, but the club uses some portion of it to finance things you don’t endorse?

Not long ago, you were just out of luck. To maintain a certain job, for instance, you had to be a dues-paying member of a particular union, whose leaders could do pretty much what they wanted with membership funds.

As Thomas Jefferson noted in defense of religious freedom and opposition to state churches, “To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves is sinful and tyrannical.”

So it is, whether that state-sanctioned compulsion is manifested through a church or a union or any other organization.

Though it gained ground in the 20th Century, compulsory unionism in recent decades has come under attack and is properly being rejected again.

Two recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Janus v. AFSCME and Fleck v. Wetch, continue that salutary trend. In Janus, the high court restored First Amendment rights to government employees, ruling that they can no longer be compelled to pay dues to public-sector unions. Fleck, which challenged the mandatory fees paid by attorneys to state bars, was remanded to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals for reconsideration because of the Janus ruling.

In light of those decisions, Texas State Bar President Joe Longley recently asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to issue an opinion on whether or not bar members can be compelled to pay dues that finance political advocacy they disagree with and support subgroups in which they have no voting rights.

Kudos to Longley for raising the question. Presidents of other organizations should follow his lead!

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