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Four things we learned about AFSCME and SEIU in 2019

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1.Both AFSCME Council 13 and SEIU Local 668 saw member numbers increase.

In the year after the Janus ruling, each Pennsylvania union saw membership grow nearly 5 percent. AFSCME now has 52,883 members, while SEIU has 16,507. 

Bizarrely, AFSCME reported about 580 fee payers in both 2018 and 2019, which likely means the union hasn’t accurately reported their loss of these paying non-members. SEIU had 3,665 fee payers before Janus; the figure is now 361 (any remainder should be private-sector workers not covered by the ruling).

2. They respond to legal and public pressure from Pennsylvania members.

SEIU Local 668 had to face Greensburg-based Megan James, William Lester, and Angela Pease in a class-action lawsuit when the union refused to recognize their resignations. The workers’ persistence led to SEIU backing down and waiving exit windows for 9,000 state government employees it represents.  Lehigh County AFFT member Cisco Molina is in a similar lawsuit, and his story has gained valuable local and national attention.

Then there’s  William Neely, who also got AFSCME Council 13 to accept his resignation (and coverage in the Wall Street Journal). And let’s not forget Mark Kiddo and his co-workers from Erie, who ratified a contract with lower pay only because AFSCME concealed a higher offer from management. 

And that’s not even the whole list. 

Workers are gaining the courage to speak up and hold SEIU and AFSCME accountable when the unions represent members poorly—and it’s getting results.

3. They can no longer steal families’ Medicaid payments.

One major victory for Americans with disabled kids or family members across the country is the Trump administration’s end to union “dues skimming.” This is the practice wherein SEIU and AFSCME have “skimmed” union dues from the government subsidies that home caregivers (often parents) receive. The unions reason that these caregivers are technically government employees because of the Medicaid or state assistance they take. The families disagree, and the May 2019 ruling now protects them, including 20,000 Pennsylvanians.

4. They are fighting First Amendment lawsuits all over the country.

If 2019 demonstrated anything, it’s that AFSCME and SEIU will do as little as possible to comply with the Janus ruling. The country’s major non-profit litigation firms are awash in lawsuits from California to Connecticut trying to protect workers’ freedom of association. For example, there are about 10 such cases with the Liberty Justice Center, and three with the Harrisburg-based Fairness Center. All in all, this year has demonstrated that government workers are willing to fight for their rights.

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