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Commerce committee hears bill on union opt-out

The Kansas Senate Commerce Committee had a hearing Monday on a bill that would clarify that Kansas public employees could leave the union at any time they chose and that they could stop paying dues at that time, and also that they would be given the choice to opt in or out at least once a year. This bill is in committee as a result of the Janus v. AFSCME decision in 2018. The plaintiff in that decision, Mark Janus, testified before the committee.

“To have somebody else come in and tell you that you have to do something, is not what this country is all about,” said Janus. “The Constitution is a contract with the people of this country. It’s not a suggestion. Unfortunately, we have too many people in this world that think that the Constitution is a suggestion. I’m here just to say that we need to allow people to make that choice. In spite of the Supreme Court ruling, we have many workers that are not being allowed to make that choice for themselves.”

A fellow proponent, Kansas Policy Institute President Dave Trabert, said support of this bill should not be seen as anti-union.

“This is about personal freedom,” said Trabert. “It’s nothing about anything negative about unions. If people want to be able to join the union, in this legislation, they clearly can. They should be free do so, but they should also be free to leave whenever they wish.”

Kansas is not a state that imposed the agency fees that were at question in Janus and as a right-to-work state has made such fees illegal.

“If this bill does become law and enacted, what happens is, you’ll see harassment,” said John Nave with the AFL-CIO. “You will see it. We see it in the manufacturing sector all the time. We believe that this, not only, it brings a wedge, but it also brings down morale and it brings down the family structure. It does, because it puts stress on those employees.”

Ultimately, there have been no court challenges in Kansas at this time regarding the timelines imposed for renewal or non-renewal in state employee individual agreements with the union. There is no timeline yet on when the bill may be worked in committee.


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