Speed Reads

Janus v. American Federation of State

Supreme Court agrees to hear major union case next year

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a major public union fees case similar to one in 2016 that inconclusively deadlocked 4-4 after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Reuters reports. With the addition of conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch to the bench, union advocates fear that a new ruling by the Supreme Court could overturn a 1977 decision that allows public-sector unions in 22 states to collect "fair-share fees" from workers who aren't members in order to represent workers on encompassing issues like pay negotiation, Bloomberg Politics reports. Union advocates argue that "if the fees weren't mandatory, [non-union] workers could become free riders, benefiting from union representation without paying for it," Bloomberg writes.

On the other hand, critics argue that forcing workers to pay union fees violates the First Amendment and freedom of speech laws by requiring them to fork over funds to unions that might not share their priorities or beliefs. "I brought this case on behalf of all government employees who also wanted to serve their community or their state without having to pay a union first," Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services employee Mark Janus, who pays thousands to the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union, told Illinois Policy. Janus added: "I've negotiated my own salary and benefits at plenty of jobs before I started working for the state. And I'd be more than happy to do so again."

The original 1977 ruling, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, determined that mandatory fees were legal "so long as workers didn't have to cover the cost of political or ideological activities," Bloomberg writes. That question will again be up for debate by the Supreme Court in Janus v. American Federation of State, with arguments early next year and a ruling in June. Read more about the case at Bloomberg Politics.