This coming Monday the Supreme Court will hear one of the most important labor rights cases of the 21st century. The decision in Janus v. AFSCME will determine whether or not public sector unions can require public employees to pay “fair share fees”, even if the employee opts out of being a member of that union.
Union members and labor rights activists across the country are rallying in dozens of cities on Saturday for the Working People’s Day of Action. Organizers argue that strong unions are what provide equitable pay, affordable health care, and quality schools for millions of people in the United States.
Currently 22 states require all public employees to pay union dues, some 5 million people. Labor rights activists argue that these union fees fund collective bargaining, the results of which benefit every public employee covered by a union whether that employee chooses to be a member of the union or not.
Deciding against the unions would overturn a 40 year precedent set in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education in which the Court ruled that public sector unions can require fees because all people working in that sector benefit from bargaining, contract negotiation, and representation. They made a distinction with regard to supporting political candidates, mandating that public sector unions must make political contribution fees optional. But recently, the Court has indicated flaws in this argument.
A similar case was recently argued before the Supreme Court but ended in a 4-4 tie due to the vacancy left after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. His replacement, Justice Neil Gorsuch, is expected to rule against the unions, as he has typically sided with corporate interests over people.
Only 10.7 percent of American workers belong to a union, down from around 20 percent 35 years ago and over 30 percent 60 years ago. 34.4 percent of government workers belong to a union compared to only 6.5 percent of private sector employees.
Media Resources: New York Times2/22/18; Huffington Post 2/19/18;