Thank You, Wealthy Robber Barons, for the Freedom to be a Free Rider

Steven Singer is a husband, father, teacher and education advocate.

Wow! I now have a real choice when it comes to my union!

At least, that’s what the email I got from the Mackinac Center says!

Now that the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in the Janus vs. AFSCME case, I don’t have to pay any of my hard earned cash to my union!

I can be a free rider! I can get all the advantages of belonging to a union – higher salary, better benefits, better safety precautions – and I can leave it to the rest of the membership to pay for me!

That’s amazing!

And what’s even more amazing is who is sending this email to me!

I mean the Mackinac Center is funded by Betsy DeVos and her family, the Koch Brothers, Eli Broad, the Scaifes, and the Walton family!

Who would have ever thought some of the richest people in the world would take an interest in my union membership!?

How nice of them!

I’m merely a public school teacher! In my more than a decade in the classroom, they’ve spent billions of dollars to weaken my profession!

They lobbied for education funding nationwide to be gutted so they could get another tax cut!

They invested in charter and voucher schools and then demanded we build more of these privatized institutions with little to no accountability so they could rake in record profits!

They’ve weakened education at schools serving the highest populations of students of color and then benefited when those same kids turned to crime and were incarcerated in their private prisons!

Instead of holding politicians accountable for inequitable funding and instead of supporting teacher autonomy, they forced high stakes standardized testing and Common Core on me and my students!

They demanded my administrators undervalue what I actually do in the classroom but instead evaluate me based on my student test scores – so being given struggling students means I’m somehow a worse teacher than the person across the hall with the honors class!

They did all that but suddenly they’re concerned about my freedom to withhold union dues!?

Well Golly!


Gee Willikers!

Goodness gracious and bless my soul!

I must have been wrong about these fellers and these ladies all along!

They reallyDOcare about little people like me!

Did you know that a 2011 study by researchers at Harvard and the University of Washington concluded that higher union membership encourages higher pay across the economy!?

It’s true!

They said the decline of unions accounts for as much as one-third of the increase in wage inequality since the 1970s!

According to the Economic Policy Institute, when union membership goes down, the wealthy make more money! Conversely, the more union membership goes up, the less money goes to the wealthy!

And despite all that, the rich are concerned that I have the right to stop paying union dues!

I mean if I stop paying my dues and my fellow working stiffs stop paying their dues, then my union might just have to close up shop!

And that would mean my wages would go down!

But these same rich people who just sent me an email would see their investments go up!

They’d take home sacks of cash! So much money that they’d probably drop some and maybe I might be able to pick up a few pennies they leave on the curb!

Isn’t that great!?

You know public sector employees including firefighters and police, and teachers like me are the largest sector left of the workforce still represented by unions!

According to BLS statistics, 38 percent of public sector employees are represented by unions!

It’s true!

Back in 1945, union membership nationwide was at its highest rate of 33.4%! That means back then about a third of all American workers belonged to a union!

Last year it was down to 10.7 percent!

In the intervening years, manufacturing jobs have declined, blue collar jobs have been outsourced and both political parties have passed laws making it harder to unionize and collectively bargain!

But thank goodness I now have the right to get something for nothing from my union!

That’s going to perk things right up!

Sure, numerous studies have shown that declining union membership is one of the major causes why middle class wages have remained basically flat! But I get to keep a hundred bucks in my pocket so everything’s square!

One thing worries me, though!

I’m not sure many union workers are going to take advantage of this new freedom!

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t agree with everything my union does! No one could say that!

I don’t agree with everything my government does, either, but I still pay taxes!

And I wouldn’t stop paying taxes even if I could! I like being an American citizen, and I like much of what my government provides by way of our military, infrastructure and social programs!

It’s the same with my union!

I mean I LIKE earning higher wages! I LIKE getting better benefits! I LIKE knowing I work in a safe environment!

And when I have a better working environment, my students have a better learning environment!

I doubt many of my co-workers are going to stop paying their dues just because they can!

We’re not stupid! We know that if you want union benefits, you have to pay union dues! The Supreme Court can say whatever it likes! It can’t legislate passed reality!

Moreover, who would want to associate with a co-worker who refuses to pull his or her own weight!?

If I found out one of my colleagues was leaving it to me to pay for both of us, I’d throw a fit! I wouldn’t associate with that person!

If he or she came to my room asking for advice, I’d tell them to get lost! I wouldn’t eat with them at lunch, I wouldn’t chat about their day, I’d give them their walking papers, myself!

Frankly, the social cost would be higher than just paying your union dues!

So thanks anyway, Mackinac Center! Thanks anyway, Charles and David Koch! Thanks anyway, Betsy DeVos!

I’m sticking with my union.

Was originally published at:

Comments (5)
No. 1-5
Steven Singer
Steven Singer


If you can get the milk for free, you won't pay for the cow. Soon you have a dead cow and no milk. Enjoy.


Unions are not an all or nothing kind of thing and the highest court provided us leeways so that we can choose for ourselves. If unions do really work for the benefit of all public workers they should provide these non members and probably soon to be non members more incentive to join and get back into the fold. Great as unions are they're not perfect as you mentioned so I guess this decision will further make unions better and start thinking of the small guys more who can now opt out and make it worthwhile for them to stay

Steven Singer
Steven Singer


Jon and Avery, it's like being an American and not paying taxes. You live here, you benefit from everything our country does, but you don't pay your fair share. You drive on the roads, you are kept safe by our police and military, your home doesn't go up in flames because of our fire departments, your kids are educated and the people you deal with are educated because of our public schools, etc. You should pay your fair share of taxes. The same with unions. If you work at a job with a union, you benefit from that. You have a higher salary because of collective bargaining. You have better benefits. You have more safety requirements. You have more autonomy, etc. You should have to pay your fair share. That's all. I find it incredible that anyone of either party disagrees with that. It comes down to pay for what you get. Don't be a free rider. Sure, the union does some things you don't agree with. So does the government. That's inevitable. It doesn't mean you should be allowed to stop paying your fair share.

Jon Saltzman
Jon Saltzman


You're actually demonstrating the point of the Court's decision. People can join or decide not to join a union. They have that right. You don't feel they should be able to decide for themselves. Why can't I be a teacher, or government worker or Fireman but not be a union member? What if I believe that teachers' unions have helped to hurt public education by bargaining for rules of tenure etc, that actually don't always put the best teachers in the classroom? Your argument about shunning those that don't want to be a union member is the typical bullying tactic that unions deploy all of the time and is why unions are so disliked.


You pay dues if you're a member. The ruling said you can only opt out of mandatory dues if you're not a member. That was my understanding. Have we read the same decision?

Sam Jenkins
EditorSam Jenkins
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Steven Singer
EditorSteven Singer
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Pat Greer
EditorPat Greer
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