Government workers who don’t want to be in a union no longer have to pay union dues through collective bargaining, but can still get the benefits.

“This is a huge blow for [unions],” UNM Political Science Professor Gabriel Sanchez said, adding Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling has huge implications for a state like New Mexico that relies heavily on government-sector jobs.

“The free rider problem: where folks say, ‘Wait a minute, I can benefit from this. I can have them represent me in collective bargaining and if they’re successful, my wages go up but I don’t have to pay? Maybe I won’t decide to do so,” he said.

However, the Albuquerque Police Officers Association president said the more than 90-percent of members who pay their full dues have incentives to keep paying, like legal benefits.

“It’s like $29 every two weeks,” APOA President Shaun Willoughby added. “We did this about a year and a half ago with… a capless legal defense fund for officers who get charged with crimes for merely just doing their police job.”

He expects the 40 people who are called “fair share members,” who pay a third of their union fees for a third of the benefits and who do not get that legal counsel, will stop paying altogether under the SCOTUS ruling.

He said the APOA board has yet to determine what the benefits will look like for those who don’t pay.

“They’ll probably no longer get a third of the benefits that full dues members are paying for but we’re not going to leave anybody out to dry. We’re still going to help cops that need it,” Willoughby said. “I think we’re going to operate a little differently, look at our benefits structure, try to really galvanize those members that aren’t full dues paying members to make sure that we can take care of them in the future.”

He’s also not concerned about the loss of funds to endorse political candidates.

“We’re very vocal and we staunchly support those who support us and that will continue,” he added.
Sanchez’s take is that the SCOTUS decision will not be a “death blow” to labor unions.

“I think they will evolve. They’ll have to play less in the political lane and find other mechanisms to entice members to participate and pay their membership dues,” Sanchez said. “We’ve been looking at this for a while really in the context of right-to-work. If we went to right-to-work, essentially this would’ve happened already.”

The Albuquerque Teacher’s Union, which says while it’s disappointed by the SCOTUS decision, says it won’t feel the impact locally because all of its 3,614 members pay their full dues and they don’t expect anyone to stop paying.

New Mexico is one of 20 states impacted by the SCOTUS ruling.