Public employee unions in the crosshairs of Supreme Court case
- Author: Wendy Palmer Mar 02, 2018,
Mar 02, 2018, 1:16
In 2016, the high court dealt with a similar challenge and appeared close to overturning a law that requires non-members to have over "Fair Share" fees linked to certain issues, like physical safety and training.
Despite the spirited arguments - which included Justice Anthony Kennedy railing against public sector unions and Justice Sonia Sotomayor calling out the Justice Department for switching positions in multiple cases - the key justice in the case, Justice Neil Gorsuch, said nothing.
This time around, with President Trump's appointment of Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, the court appears more likely to side with Mark Janus, a child-support specialist for the state of IL, who asserts that mandatory union fees infringe upon his freedom of speech and association. She said the impact could create "free riders" who could benefit from a union's representation but not have to pay for it.
The court will rule by June in the case, Janus v.
The Supreme Court hears arguments today regarding the ability of state governments and their labor unions to extract union fees from unwilling employees.
Janus is represented by groups such as the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center, who argue that approximately 5 million public sector employees are required - as a condition of their employment - to "subsidize the speech of a third-party that they may not support, namely the government-appointed exclusive representative". That case was challenged previous year in Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association which ended up with a 4-4 tie after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, leaving the fees in place.
Because President Donald Trump appointed Gorsuch, union members are anxious that the court will rule against them. Union leaders say the ultimate goal of those pressing the case is to undermine the clout of the labor movement.
Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's appointee to fill Scalia's seat, has been seen as providing the fifth vote for the conservatives, but he was uncharacteristically quiet during Monday's argument. Janus' lawyers note that these claims "turn, to a large degree, on self-interested judgments by union officials about how they and other union employees spend their time". These fees help cover the costs of collective bargaining that benefits union and non-union workers alike.
"Regardless of the outcome of this case, Working Partnerships will stand with working people and their unions", she said in a press release on Monday. Chris Hayes of MSNBC said that Friedrich's case might "decimate the way that public sector unions function".
Janus, a child care support specialist who has worked for the state of IL for about 11 years, objects to paying his so-called Hudson Notice fees which are equivalent to about 78% of union dues.
Mark Janus is plaintiff in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Janus v. AFSCME. Unions shouldn't get to use other people's money.
Not being able to collect agency fees, that's a big problem for teachers, said OFT's Cropper.
Writing in the Tribune two years ago, Janus argued, "Government unions have pushed for government spending that made the state's fiscal situation worse".
Janus says he has a constitutional right not to contribute anything to a union with which he disagrees.
The American Civil Liberties Union is on the unions' side against an individual's free speech claims.