Justices To Weigh Challenge To Public Sector Union Fees

by Abel Hampton September 29, 2017, 0:24
Justices To Weigh Challenge To Public Sector Union Fees

An undated image of the Supreme Court in Washington.

This suit alleges the fees force workers to support unions that are essentially lobbies that don't necessarily share their beliefs.

An Illinois state employee, Mark Janus, asked the justices to take up the issue again.

While the Janus case involves a different plaintiff from a different state (Illinois), the argument is the same: Collective bargaining by public-sector unions inherently involves political issues that trigger First Amendment rights, just like the overtly political union activities that nonmembers have long had the right to refuse to help pay for.

Pennsylvania's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the Commonwealth Court to hold a trial on whether public school funding across the state is inequitable and violates the state Constitution. In many states, when a majority of employees at a private company vote to unionize, all employees at that company are legally required to pay union dues. It said workers need not pay for the political activities of unions, like campaign spending, as that would violate their First Amendment rights. By the time it was decided, the Supreme Court was short one member following the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia.

Now that Neil Gorsuch has reestablished the conservative majority on the Court, there is little doubt that last year's 4-4 deadlock in the California case will become a 5-4 majority in Janus, overruling the 1977 decision and liberating state and local employees from the inconvenience of helping to defray costs associated with obtaining the wages, benefits, and workplace protections they enjoy. Janus v. AFSCME, filed on behalf of Mark Janus, an employee of the Illinois Department of Healthcare Services.

Eighteen state attorneys general signed a friend of the court brief by the Michigan Attorney General's Office, which urges the justices to abandon the "meaningless distinction between collective bargaining and other political activity".

IL is one of 22 states that permit agency fees, according to the National Right to Work Foundation.

The decision to hear the case sparked a new round of concern among union leaders, who have been fighting for years in courthouses and legislatures to preserve agency fees.

The Supreme Court's 5-2 ruling reversed a decision by a lower court that in 2015 had thrown out the challenge to how schools are funded.

The term opens Monday with an argument over class-action lawsuits by workers who have previously agreed to press any grievances as individual claims in arbitration. "This case is yet another example of corporate interests using their power and influence to launch a political attack on working people and rig the rules of the economy in their own favor", said Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

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