State and local public-sector unions will need to find new sources of revenue to fund their negotiations, thanks for a recent Supreme Court ruling striking down what’s known as “fair-share fees.” The ruling, which occurred in June of 2018, struck down an Illinois law which gave agencies the power to collect fees from non-union members to fund collective bargaining actions. There are laws similar to this one in 22 other states.
The decision overturned a precedent based on the 1977 case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education which gave unions in the public sector the power to collect fees from non-members to cover costs of non-political union actions.
Details of the Case
The current case was brought forth by Mark Janus, a child support specialist in the state of Illinois. Janus argued that he should not be required to pay the $45 which was deducted from each of his paychecks to support his local union, stating that he was opposed to their message.
The unions argue that the funds are needed to support the significant costs associated with negotiating better working conditions and pay, which ultimately benefits all employees, not just members. The mandatory fees ensure that all employees who receive the benefit pay their “fair share.”
Arguments in Support of the Decision
The decision was supported by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, and Anthony Kennedy.
Supporters of the decision argue that all public-sector union actions are inherently political, since they influence taxes and government spending. They further argue that no worker should be required to financially support a political message he or she does not agree with, as this is in violation of the worker’s first amendment rights. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) and the Department of Justice both spoke out in support of the decision.
In a scathing statement of dissent, Justice Elena Kagan accused the majority of using the first amendment as a “weapon” to push the decision in the direction they wanted it to go. The dissent was supported by colleagues Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Proponents of the decision see it as a political attack against the labor movement and vowed to continue the push to keep supporting union movements.
Under these new rules, public-sector unions will lose a significant portion of their funding and may see a large drop in membership. This will likely weaken the bargaining power and political influence of unions across many states. It’s unclear at this time what the long-term ramifications of this decision will be, but you can definitely expect to see the impact for years to come.